The following weekend, not yet fully recovered from the staggering weight of loading our boat, which now weighed just a little less than the pickup truck we drove, we then unloaded it and shoved it into the cheerfully gurgling South Prairie Creek. Well, actually, after a couple days of hard rain its cheerful gurgle had deepened in tone, with a mingling of belches and burps. But we really hadn’t noticed, our attention being on the nearest farm house. After one of the cows gave its mooing alarm, the farmer bolted to the porch, shotgun poised for action. With wide grins we waved as we jumped in the boat, finding great satisfaction in the looks of frustration of both farmer and cow. Dell sat in the rear while I manned the oars.
“I can’t wait to drift a line through those holes,” I excitedly exclaimed as I rowed us into the current. “Those steelhead will be fighting to get at our baits.”
But Dell didn’t answer, suddenly becoming aware of what I had also noticed. The friendly characteristics of this stream turned menacing. Its brooks were no longer babbling. They now spoke quite clearly. “I’ve got ya now, sucka!” And instead of the current skimming under us, it grabbed the boat like a ravenous snake, taking us down stream at the same pace as the current–a current which now seemed much faster than when observed from shore. And though I was suddenly pulling on the oars much harder, it made little difference in our speed or, worse yet, our direction. The water’s rumble intermingled with Dell’s screams as he frantically thrust his finger. “That way! That way! That–”
It was then we crashed into a snarl of blackberry bushes overhanging the bank. When we exploded out the other side in a shower of leaves and startled birds we brought with us several remnants of blackberry vines, their thorns embedded in strategic locations about our persons, while at the same time leaving behind small pieces of clothing, flesh, and one fishing pole. Because it was Dell’s pole I gave it little attention, something he also gave little attention. Dell’s eyes became large bulging orbs when he saw water coming in the boat from various locations, not to mention over the sides. “Get me to shore!” he screamed. “Just get me to shore!”
Noticing his pathetic lack of confidence in our immediate future I attempted to lighten the situation by clowning around with light-hearted screams mingled with eloquent prayers as they came to memory. Dell was obviously effected, doing the same with a few interesting variations of his own. My jests increased when one of the oars jumped out of his oarlock. By the time I returned it to its operating position we were well into an out-of-control spin, with a large boulder fast approaching in mid stream. Using Dell’s face and chest as a foot brace, I strained at the oars, maneuvering the boat into a perfect broadside collision with the rock.
Dell fell silent, his full attention required to remain in the boat, especially when the boat was upside down, with some of its structural properties being left behind when we catapulted over the boulder. I frantically flogged air with the oars, their velocity playing an aerodynamic role in uprighting the boat before we were sucked into a narrow chute, overhung with nettles and more blackberry bushes. When we were finally spat out the other sided we furthered our collection of foliage while leaving more of our persons behind, along with my fishing pole. The water level inside the boat now matched that of the outside. Our lives flashed before our eyes. Well, Dell’s life flashed before his eyes. But because he insisted on going into every insignificant and boring detail of his life, there wasn’t enough time for my life’s flash to begin. I have since determined to flash my life first if such a situation should arise again. But much to our surprise, we found ourselves quietly floating through a long deep pool, sitting in a boat which was now beneath the surface of the water. Dell stared blankly into nowhere, a slight twitch at one eye. Obviously, he was prepared to meet his Maker.
“Am I in Heaven?” Dell weakly asked as we staggered to shore, the boat abandoned somewhere beneath the swirling current. Once he saw me his eyes widened, revealing his thoughts concering my spiritual qualifications. “Oh no Lord! I’m walking to the fires of–”
“Snap out of it, Dell!”
After a few moments of getting my bearings I told Dell we would have to hike back to the pickup, the cow pasture being the only coarse of travel. Dell said nothing, his full attention being on kissing the ground. And there is nothing more pathetic to witness than someone grinning with a ring of sand around their lips.
Just about the time we started across the pasture I heard the frantic mooing of a cow….
Later while hanging on the side of the pickup gasping for air and kicking brown goo off our shoes, Dell looked up at me. “It’s a good thing bird shot doesn’t travel too far.”
I looked back into the field and snarled. There is nothing more irritating to see than a farmer and milk cow hanging on one another while hysterically laughing–”
“Wait a minute,” one of my cronies said, interrupting my story. “Are you talking about the same South Prairie Creek I’m thinking of. The one just out of town?”
“The one and the same,” I proudly replied. “Now maybe you can see the danger–”
“Why that creek ain’t hardly big enough to drift a boat in much less drown in. And you trying to tell us that those farmers in the valley have…watch cows?”
I smugly leaned back in my chair. “If I’m lying may the good Lord strike me with lightening.”
While all the patrons of Kelly’s suddenly fell silent and nervously stared at the ceiling for any signs of static electricity, I squared myself in my chair, figuring this was a good opportunity to open with another of my better tales. “Now if you think that’s something, wait till I tell you about the time I tried fishing the Flaming Geyser Gorge, drifting it in a belly float tube and swim fins–”
“What did he say? old Sam Wilson hollered. “And where are you guys going? We moving again?”
I laughed and shook my head. “They’re just playing the same ole’ prank, Sam. Come on, let’s go along with their fun and follow them to the next table…Hey, guys, before I begin this story, whose turn is it to buy the next round….?”