We drove by the Llano River as slow as a horse and buggy over the scattered rocks by the flood gauge on FM 3404. We rocked in our seats like frontiersmen sitting in a wagon, surveying the land, squinting our eyes in the silver sun. Was my wife wearing a bonnet? My son suspenders? I felt like Michael Landon, always teary-eyed for the camera close-up upon arrival at his destination.
No, we were just outside of Kingsland, Texas at the Llano River Slab, a waterhole an hour-and-a-half outside of Austin. The river runs across countless granite rocks and tubs, teeming with tidbit jumping frogs that pop off the water like bacon grease. I wasn't sure what to expect, but we had to get out of the house. School starts tomorrow, but my son hasn’t been swimming nearly enough this summer.
My son was staring at video games today like the little girl from Poltergeist, and I was limping around the house with an old injury. Maybe there was healing in them waters. For the both of us. You know, swimming is the only activity that’s still undefeated. In 2020 no less. No PS4, XBox, or YouTube video can compete with water. A kid is going to prefer swimming to damn near anything.
We parked the car and I looked across the river. Maybe I could hike an 1/8th of a mile? 50 yards? limping as I was, or maybe I could just sit still for once, and watch dragonflies scribble around the cattails while I soak my toes in the rushing water.
As every fat man is apt to do while swimming, I'll leave my shirt on, (like wet shirts don't cling to the skin and reveal my tea pitcher physique), and find one of the many granite river tubs to sit in to cool off.
We all felt a little uncomfortable. It was our first time here, and we were wearing the loudest pastels, carrying the zaniest towels, sinking in flop-flops, and we had no idea where to set up shop. We felt like balloon clowns trying to find the birthday party we were performing at. I decided to take my family out to the middle, on a flat rock, so we made a couple of river crossings. I had my hiking stick with me to check the depth as I waded, carefully trying not to slip on the muddy rocks below. When I looked back, watching my wife look over the water like it was an open airplane hatch, made me lean my head back with laughter.
We rolled out a blanket on the big rock, and played. Like children. Freely. My son frolicked in and out of the water like a seal, my wife kicked up water, and I hiked to the tallest rock I could see up river, and greeted a couple sitting by the cascade, sipping on cold beers and listening to Country music.
I looked back. My wife was now sunbathing, and my boy floated on his back under the silver sun drifting along a gentle current, and I leaned on my staff, well-pleased, overlooking the Llano River valley.