The old man and the boy were sitting by the big river.
They both sat there very quietly, looking at the water as it passed them by.
“Pop, where does all this water come from?”
“Oh this water comes from many places and it’s only halfway there.”
“Get out of it Pop. What do you mean it’s only halfway there?”
“It’s on a journey boy. On it’s way down to the sea. This water hasn’t got there yet.”
“What’s it going to do when it gets there?” the boy asked the old man.
The old man answered, “Become an ocean.”
The boy sat back, thinking to himself about all that water in the ocean.
Then he said out loud, “But where is the river coming from before it gets to here?”
“Like I said. It comes from many places.”
The boy growled at him, “How can one river come from many places?”
“Because rivers do. Many rivers make up this river and all those rivers start in different places. You’ve been to Aunty Noony’s haven’t you?”
“Yeah with Dad. Took us ages to get there. She lives by the river!”
“Well that same water there in front of Aunty Noony’s place is in this river, even though her river’s got a different name to this river.”
“You’ve lost me Pop.”
“Look at that gum tree there.
“What’s a gum tree got to do with it?”
“See all them branches on the tree. Follow any one of them down with your finger and they all join up. They’re like little rivers all running into one another until there is only one big river, like that tree’s got only one big trunk.”
“That still doesn’t tell me all the places they come from,” said the boy.
“Well most rivers start in the high country. The rain starts them and all the water starts running downhill and across the land. Some rivers just come up from the ground. Bet you didn’t know there are rivers under the ground?”
“No I didn’t.”
The boy thought for awhile about rivers underground and what they might look like.
Then he asked the old man, “But how did the rivers get dug out for the water to run in? Did people do it?”
“No, my boy. A big snake made this river bed.”
“How can a snake make a river?“
“He slithered across the land and made the river to hold the water so we’d have water to drink and fish to eat. That’s why when you see a river from up high it looks like a giant snake.”
The old man scratched the shape of a snake in the dirt with his stick.
The boy remembered hearing about the snake somewhere before and got all excited.
“It wasn’t a brown snake was it Pop! Or a black snake! It was a rainbow snake, wasn’t it Pop! He made the mountains too.”
“That he did.”
“Did you know that even today you can still see that rainbow snake?” Pop asked.
“Where? Is he in a zoo?”
“No, no. No one can catch the rainbow snake. He’s right in front of you.”
The boy jumped. “Where? Where’s the snake?”
The old man replied, “If you look there where the sun hits the water, you’ll see all the colours of a rainbow. See ‘em? That’s him.”
The old man and the boy sat there again very quietly by the big river staring at the sun on the water and at all the different colours.
“Did you see him make them Pop? Did you see the snake make the river beds when you were a boy?”
“No I didn’t see him make the river beds, they were already there. They got made a long, long time ago, long before I was born.”
“That must have been a long time ago Pop.”
“It was my boy, it was. It was a long, long time ago.”
Rights Reserved T J Bishop