Need a recipe for a wild Friday night? Try combining two 12-year-old boys who love to explore, a creek full of late summer flood water and a homeless kitten.
As I headed home from work towards an ominous looking western sky, I was concerned that outdoor activity might not be what my Friday night youth group wanted to do. Thankfully I was wrong. Ethan and Trent were always up for an adventure. Even in the rain.
“That just means we’ll have the creek all to ourselves,” Trent said with a mischievous grin.
And we did. Almost. We parked along the county road just beside the bridge and slid our way down to the sand bar. The summer shower somehow made the chocolate milk-colored creek more adventurous. I think the electric energy in the air transferred directly to us.
Layered with smooth quartz pebbles, rough red sand and random drift wood, Mulberry Creek was the closest option for us to cool off after a day of insane August humidity that only Alabamians are bred to tolerate.
At a location that is usually packed with visitors from across the state, we were greeted by only one family who chose to stay under the bridge with their Jeep while the fathers smoked and the daughters played in the sand.
The water itself was all ours. Headstrong and hopeful, we entered our watery world with the goal of seeing some snakes and fish and swim in the rain.
The boys decided that the best course of action would be to walk upstream and then float back down. Though the trek upstream yielded no snakes and no fish, it was not completely devoid of animal life. Ethan spotted an abandoned black kitten yelping from the shoreline of an exposed sand bar.
The boys rushed to check out the drenched creature, miserable for companionship.
After further inspection, and multiple neck-deep kitten baptisms in the creek water, the boys decided that it was going home with one of us, namely me.
Ethan volunteered to pick it up and carry it back to our bridge beach.
“I wish there was some way it could float with us,” he said.
Trent spotted a washed-up cross section of an oak tree. He did his due diligence to make it a raft.
“Not going to work,” he sighed.
We decided to leave the cat safely at the bridge beach, explore downstream momentarily and return. But as soon as we turned our backs, we realized that kitten wasn’t about to let the only people that cared leave its sight. It jumped into the muddy creek water and began swimming toward the boys.
Contrary to popular opinion, not all cats dislike water. This little guy was desperate, though we voted he was not strong enough to keep up in the rushing water.
Ethan placed it back on the shoreline, only to watch the determined feline plow its way through tree limbs, black berry bushes and greenbriers along the bank to keep up with our downstream travels.
Slightly ahead of Trent and the cat in our float trip downstream, Ethan and I were attempting a slightly painful half-swim/half-creek-crawl when we lost sight the rest of our party. We reached a mutually agreed upon stopping point and turned back to check on our crew. Trent appeared in the distance, slowly making his way across another sandbar, kitten in tow.
“He jumped in the water again,” Trent said with a smile as the kitten clawed his bare white belly. “I don’t mind carrying him.”
“Guess we better get him home,” I said. “What are we gonna name him?”
“He’s a great swimmer,” Ethan said. “Let’s call him ‘Minnow.’”
Ethan, Trent, Minnow and I pushed our way against the rising creek current and crawled up the slick clay creek bank back to my Mustang just as the rain ceased and the sun popped out.
“This was fun” the boys said as the kitten jumped into the car. “We should do this every Friday night.”