TITLE: Precocious child on a river
By Heidi Wallenborn
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By Heidi Wallenborn-Cramer
"Have you ever been on a locomotive?"
"Why are flies black?"
"Why do bees sting?"
"How far have you traveled on that boat?"
"I don't like eggs. Why do you?"
"The Easter Bunny leaves me chocolate eggs. Do you know why?"
On our last of five days on the Glenelg River in Australia over Easter weekend, I was peppered by questions from a five-year-old like buckshot from a 12-gauge rifle.
My husband, Steve, and I had settled in for the night. We moored our small sailing yacht at Saunders Landing and powered the outboard tinny for fishing before sunset. No one was at the picnic/camp area we chose. We seemed to be utterly alone.
Steve lit the wood-fueled barbecue. He cooked steaks, sautéed onion, corn-on-the-cob and potatoes in foil. We settled in for a game of Scrabble.
Dusk turned to night. Parrots and other sleepy birds settled in.
Midway through our dinner with the board game by flashlight nearly finished, we heard a foghorn-like female voice drifting over black water:
"Hoy! Yeah mate! That's the place we saw earlier today, mate! Oi! There's boats there! But I'm sure it's the same place! Oi! It looks like two boats are there! Pull in anyway! Oi! I see lights! Pull in hard right, mate! I'll watch out!"
Chagrined, Steve and I helped these boaters navigate with flashlights through a dark, snag-filled river underneath a star-filled sky.
Once landed, we invited them to share our fire and sparkling wine.
This couple, older than Steve and me in our late 40s, had Campbell, a five-year-old son with them.
Campbell is precocious to say the least.
Curious, he processed information quickly. He noticed our interrupted Scrabble game and asked questions about letters on squares with tiny numbers in the corner. I explained the game while his parents spoke with Steve by the campfire.
I enjoyed watching him learn. He was fascinated with our flashlight and randomly turned it on and off. He lit up the surrounding gum trees looking for ring-tailed possums and koalas. He asked how far light goes.
"How far do you think light goes?" I said.
He pondered a moment and answered, "As far as I can see."
"Really?" I said.
By this time the moon rose and sailed above the horizon.
"But light travels so much farther than we can see," I said. "What if someone was on that moon over there and saw your light? Do you think that could happen?"
Campbell didn't answer, he stared at the moon.
"What about the stars?" I asked. "What if the light shining down to us from space was really a bunch of people on planets with flashlights shining them in our direction--hoping we would see them?"
Campbell looked at me quizzically and said, "Flashlight?"
"I mean torch," I said. (Australian lingo.)
Thinking about that for a minute, Campbell smiled. With a childish laugh, he discounted the idea.
"Nah," he said. "That's just too far away."
The child was distracted by Steve offering a perfectly melted marshmallow from a stick over the fire.
As the evening wore on, Campbell was ushered off to bed on his parent's houseboat.
“Oi!” his mother called to me, trailing after her husband who held their sleeping son. “He’s pretty smart, ain’t he?”
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