Dying on the Rio Grande

“Daddy, I’m in the water.”

“I am, too, Sweetie.”

“But my face is in the water and I can’t breathe.”

“I’m covered with water and I can’t even move.”

“Where are we, Daddy?”

“We are on the shore of the big river.”

“What are we doing here in the cold water?”

“We were going to America but our boat crashed.”

“Why didn’t we go on the bridge with the other people?”

“The people who run things wouldn’t let us cross on the bridge.”

“Are they mean? Do they hate us?”

“Some do, but they just don’t understand what it’s like at home so we had to risk crossing the river on our own.”

“What is in America besides the old family hacienda?”

“Well, there are no bandits in America so we would be safe. There would be good schools for all the kids…..houses with glass windows…lots of playgrounds…good jobs. It will be wonderful.”

“Who is not letting us use the bridge?”

“Well, I don’t know names and addresses but I am sure God is making a list.”

“When we go to Heaven, will we have to cross the river in a boat or will God let us use the bridge?”

“I think everybody will be welcome to use the bridge.”

“We’re so late. Does this mean we won’t see the family hacienda?”

“I suspect so, Sweetie. But the hacienda really isn’t ours anyway – the gringos took it after the war. Our family had it for years and years.”

“Did they give us money?”

“No, there was more of them than us so they took it. They said they were remembering the Alamo.”

“Is that the way things work, Daddy?”


“Daddy, does this mean we have to go back home? It seems we’ll never get across the river.”

“I don’t know. Home is 600 miles back. My feet hurt. We’ll just have to wait and pray somebody rescues us.”

“My feet hurt, too – ever since my shoes came apart a long ways back. Can you warm my feet?

“Sweetheart, I can’t move. My legs got hurt in the crash. They pain something awful.”

“I wonder where Momma is.”

“I hope that she and Rodriguez made it across the river. If Rod is in the water like us, he’s sure to catch pneumonia.”

“Daddy, what will we like most about America?”

“Sorry, sweetie, but I am getting so tired and I can’t breathe in the water.”

“I really getting cold, Daddy. Do you have a blanket?”

“I have no blankets today, do I? Where is Rod? Has he gone to town to get blankets?

“Who, Daddy? Is that Momma coming with a blanket? Daddy, is that Momma? Daddy, why don’t you answer?

I’m cold and it’s turning dark. Really dark! Say something, Daddy.”

“Daddy, I can’t feel my feet anymore. Do I still have feet?”


“Daddy, why don’t you answer? Are you napping?”


“Daddy, I’m so afraid. Hold me, Daddy.”


“Daddy, I’m getting so tired…I’m going to sleep a little while.”

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.


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