I’ve been thinking about a spot on the Brazos about a day and half below the dam at Possum Kingdom Reservoir, where a long, humped island narrows to a spit of sand. A couple of years ago I found myself camped there with three friends. We’d been paddling all day, and after catching and eating a few little crappies, we sat around a dwindling fire until one by one everybody went to sleep. I was the last to go by a couple of hours, unable to tear myself away from the cold air and the dome of stars and the sound of water slipping past. It’s a trinity I’ve enjoyed many times, but at that moment it seemed to add up to more—a sense of the past, a dim awareness of how this place might have seemed a hundred years ago, or even five hundred years ago. Few things are as timeless as a river at night.
The next morning, we reentered the current to begin our third day of happy escape from cities, jobs, etc. An old sense of freedom settled in. Nothing impeded our easy drift downstream; all that lay ahead of us was water. In Texas, rivers are still public domain, a point of distinction in our mostly privately owned and fenced state. When the water’s up, they’re one of the few remaining natural places where a person can travel for miles