Thursday, August 6, 2015

Floating in the Woods

            Since its summer I thought it was appropriate to talk about float trips and one in particular.  I guess before I do so, for the benefit of our foreign readers, I better explain what a float is.  It is NOT a drink with ice cream and root beer or Coke or Pepsi.  No, no.  This is where you load up people and boats and coolers and go to a river, then “float” downstream for a few hours, drinking and basically being stupid together until you all reach a prearranged meeting spot where someone extracts you to take you back to your cars.

            The trick here is not to drown because there are, like most activities, amateurs and professionals.  Most of the floaters on the river you will see are true amateurs.  You can spot them a mile away.  They load into the canoes and pack about 6 coolers with them, loaded with beer, enough for 20 people.  The coolers alone weigh twice as much as the two humans.  Next, neither one of the amateurs have ever paddled a canoe before.  This is evident by the fact that they will overturn it before they get 200 feet.

            I come from a long line of outdoor people.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, everybody except for my own parents.  My dad was a pilot in the Air Force, too busy for the outdoors.  My uncles, his brothers, taught me the finer points of fishing and the fun of the river systems.  We became the professionals when it came to professionals vs amateurs.

            We didn’t screw with canoes.  We used jon boats.  Jon boats are wide river boats.  They are very stable with flat bottoms and great for fishing on rivers.  We of course also had motors.  When we went on float trips, we also fished our way downstream.  We knew the river and how long it took to get from point “A” to point “B”.

            When I was a Junior in high school in Tucson, Arizona, I built a kayak.  I knew even then I would be going to college in Missouri as my father would be transferring sometime in the future, so staying in Arizona would be stupid.  All my relatives were 1,500 miles away, so I might as well go to school in Missouri.  The summer before I entered college I packed up everything, including my kayak, and headed to the little town of Cuba, Missouri, where almost all my relatives lived.

            One Saturday, we decided we were going to have a float trip.  We got together three jon boats in the family, my kayak, and a bunch of us, and headed for the river.  We determined where we wanted to finish and parked one truck there.  No one in the family were drinkers, so had coolers full of Coke, but in those days Coke came in glass bottles.  We had a bunch of bottles of Coke in each cooler in all three boats.

            We set off and had a great time.  We fished our way down and spent all day on the river.  Since we knew the river well, we paced ourselves so we could get out when we wanted.  Everyone caught some fish and a few members of the family took turns in my kayak.  By 4 p.m. we arrived at our extraction point, tired but happy.  A couple people loaded up and went after the other trucks to load up everything while we cleaned fish and prepared.

            Soon we were on our way back to town.  I was in the back of the first truck.  My kayak was next to me and we were towing a jon boat.  We had two more behind us in a convoy.  The road back to town was far from straight and hilly, about 8 miles.  I was enjoying the warm air and pleasant sky when I heard a “clunk”.  My Uncle Don, who was driving, looked back at me with a curious look.  I shrugged my shoulders.  I then looked back to the boat. 

            The trailer had become dislodged from the truck and the tongue was in the air.  The trailer was still going down the road behind us at the same speed as we were.  I tapped on the window to get my Uncle’s attention and pointed to the trailer.  Just then, the trailer made a quick left and headed across the two lane road, across the ditch, and disappeared into the trees.  I could hear things crashing into bushes and trees.  A few choice words came from the cab of the truck as Uncle Don quickly slowed down and found a place to turn around.

            When we all got back to the scene, we had to walk in about 100 feet to find the boat lodged against a tree.  When it hit the tree, it shot Coke bottles out from the cooler at least another 50 feet from the boat.  Apparently we didn’t get the hitch fastened properly when we connected the boat to the truck.  That boat was tough as the only damage was a minor dent about five inches long and two inches into the boat itself.

            The boat was owned by my Grandparents.  Grandma thought it was funny.  Grandpa?  Not so much.  We lost our professional status that day.

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