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The Strid (standard:drama, 1571 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Aug 20 2004Views/Reads: 2697/1186Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
My first ever short story... Rex stopped at one of the water filled holes and lapped at the cold clear water, whilst Harry, still holding Rex’s makeshift lead, stepped closer to where the water thrashed and churned between the rocks…
 



The Strid 

©2002 Ian Hobson 

This morning a thick fog envelops the town, but the telegraph poles and
chimney pots are poking through and basking in the morning sunshine. 
The garden could do with tidying, but I fancy a drive into Wharfedale 
and a walk through Strid Woods. 

* 

The fog here is even thicker than at home. This stretch of riverside,
between Barden Bridge and Bolton Abbey, is probably one of the most 
walked in the whole of the Dales, carrying everything from serious 
hikers to little old ladies taken out for a Sunday drive and a 
riverside stroll.  Just down from Barden Bridge the River Wharfe flows 
through a deep wooded gorge known as Strid Woods. 

The Strid is a section of the river that is much deeper than it is wide.
The river before the Strid, perhaps sixty feet wide and six feet deep, 
is abruptly turned on its side and funneled through a long rocky 
channel, maybe six to eight feet wide and nobody-knows-how-deep.  I 
seem to recall that the name Strid comes from the word stride, or maybe 
it was the other way around.  In theory, with the correct combination 
of long legs, agility and stupidity, it's possible to jump or stride 
over at the narrowest point. 

A sign warns that lives have been lost in the past.  Legend has it that
a local boy, accompanied by his dog on a lead, leaped over the Strid 
every day.  But one day the dog faltered and the boy, pulled back by 
the dog's lead, failed to reach the other side, fell into the water, 
and was sucked under and never seen again. 

*** 

As Harry ran down through the woods Rex was ahead of him.  Harry was
tall for his age, and the tallest in his class at school.  He was lucky 
to go to school.  Most other ten-year-olds worked full time, on the 
farms or in the wool mills.  But Harry had three elder brothers, all of 
whom worked on his father's small farm, as well as other neighboring 
farms.  And Harry's Aunt Mary, who now lived in the village and close 
to the schoolhouse, had bullied Harry's father into letting at least 
one of his seven children get an education.  Harry liked school and 
found the work easy.  This, plus Harry's angelic features and unruly 
mop of blond hair, made him a favorite with his teacher Miss Webster. 

Untold years of falling leaves had made the well-worn track soft
underfoot, except for the steep sections where stone steps had been 
laid a century before.  Some of these were slippery, but Harry was 
sure-footed.  Though after years of going bare foot, the wearing of 
boots had taken a lot of getting used to.  Again he had his Aunt Mary 
to thank.  She had no children of her own, having never married, and 
she doted on Harry.  She loved Rex as well, and did not mind looking 
after him whilst Harry was in school. 

Rex raced back to the bottom of the steps, panting heavily, his long
tongue hanging to one side of his open mouth and dripping saliva.  He 
barked up at Harry as he reached the top of the steps and began to 
descend them two at a time.  But before Harry was half way down Rex was 
off again.  Harry leaped from the fifth step and landed evenly on the 
soft earth.  His breathing was even.  He was so accustomed to running 
the five miles to school and back that he could almost have run it 
blindfold.  In fact today he may as well have been blindfold, because 
as he reached the narrow hillside road the fog was so thick that 
although he could hear Rex panting somewhere ahead he could not see 
him. 

‘Rex!  Here!' shouted Harry.  Rex came bounding back to Harry and ran
beside him along the road.  The road was roughly paved with gravel and 
larger stones but it was not much more than a cart track.  Rex ran 
ahead again and disappeared into the fog.  Harry followed, deliberately 
skidding to a stop on the slope before turning to his right and 
entering Strid Woods.  The gradient now was steeper and the path even 
softer underfoot.  It was mid winter, and leafless trees loomed out of 
the mist like phantoms.  Ahead, a magpie's clattering call told other 


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