Vol. 11



1972; near Salmon, Idaho, USA"Sandman" illustration: Children dig a deep "window" into the sand at the river's edge.

It was a beautiful summer day in Idaho, and I was rafting down the Salmon River with my family and friends — the perfect way to spend my summer vacation. In fact, if I could go back in time, there isn’t a single thing I would change about that day. Well actually, come to think of it, I would cut out the part where I almost died.

We had taken a break from rafting. The adults were making sandwiches for lunch, and us kids were splashing around in the water until that got boring. We needed a challenge.

My brother suggested we dig a huge tunnel into the side of the riverbank. The other kids approved, and we all began digging. The sand wedged under our fingernails and scraped our arms, but we didn’t mind. The prospect of digging a gigantic hole was enough to overcome pain.

As time passed, the tunnel grew until it went so deep into the bank that we had to crawl in to dig deeper. Since I was the smallest kid, it was natural that I was chosen to crawl in, since it was easiest for me to wiggle out. In and out I went, transporting handfuls of sand. The further I dug, the darker it got, until I was blindly thrashing about. For kids looking for a challenge, the obvious solution to this problem is not to stop digging, but instead to dig another hole down from the surface to let in sunlight.

So we took a break from digging our original hole and started digging the window. Once the window reached the tunnel, I went back to wiggling in and out. Unfortunately, the window made the tunnel unstable and CRASH! It collapsed! I desperately tried to push up, but to no avail. The sand on top of me was so heavy, there was no way I could get out. I was buried alive!

The sand burned my eyes and clogged my nose and ears. There was a tiny air pocket since my hands were below me in a plank position, but every time I inhaled, my lungs got a fresh coat of sand, tickling my throat and making the next breath more difficult. I thought if I could lower myself, I could get enough momentum to push out, but when I did, the sand crushed me even more. There was no room. I was running out of air. I’m going to suffocate! I’m going to die!

After what seemed like hours, my friends dug me up. I used my last ounce of strength to climb out of the hole, and I was rather disappointed at my welcome. The clueless adults were still making sandwiches. As for my friends, they didn’t even seem relieved to see me. In fact, they were laughing at me, chanting, “Sandman! Sandman!” Angry, I plugged my sand-clogged ears.

To this day, my brother still calls me “The Sandman.”


This is my dad’s story, which nearly cost him his life — and mine.


Belle Sara Gage; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Carissa Lieberman; Missouri, USA



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story and/or illustration in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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