Author’s note: This was an article I wrote for Salmon, Trout, Steelheader Magazine back in the 80’s. Out of all the articles I have written, this one ranked just about highest in “Letters To The Editor” section of their magazine, which this particular editor always passed on to the writers. Hope you enjoy….
Countless masses travel to our nation’s rivers every year. Some visit their banks just to be in the great out-of-doors. Others go to fish. Personally, I go under the pretence to fish, but in reality I go to fall in. And, I might add, I am an expert. In fact I am so well-known for falling in our local rivers that anglers stop me on the street, asking me for safety tips, figuring if they do just the opposite of what I suggest they will stand a far better chance of remaining dry. For that reason, somewhere back then I began looking at falling in a river in a different light. Though, needless to say, the experience is uncomfortable, not to mention sometimes life-threatening, I noticed it does make for memorable entertainment for those who witness the event. For that reason I thought the subject was worth a much closer study. I have now categorized my different types of falls, how they occurred, and their entertainment value.
The first, and most common fall, is the “Woopsie Doodle Fall.” This begins with the victim wading in a river with the rocky bottom covered with slippery algae. What happens next is usually over in a matter of seconds. One moment the happy angler is sloshing through the water, his only thoughts being on the fat trout waiting for him. The next moment he is doing a high-speed rendition of a combination can-can and watusi as boots desperately try to find traction. With each kick the feet rise progressively higher, finally reaching a point somewhere above the head. About this time it is inevitable that there will be a mixup in which foot should kick next. That is when both feet kick as one. Now it is time for the laws of gravity to come into play, causing the body to begin its downward plunge, with that portion not protected by boots to enter the water first. By now the eyes have already became bulging orbs. Believe me, they are about to bulge even further. For it must be understood how the human body reacts when its 98.6 degree mass comes in contact with 42. 3 degree water. First the heart leaves its designated location and jumps up somewhere near the Adam’s apple where it begins strange and scary gyrations. The lungs in turn instantly balloon as they suck in huge quantities of air. The air is then sent to the vocal chords so as to scream adjectives not befitting the ears of women, children, weak of heart, not to mention the clergy. Now, the reaction after the victim has thrust himself back to the standing position.
The reaction after the fall is important, especially concerning the entertainment value for those who witness the spectacle. And that is something which must also be understood and accepted. Witnesses must always be present at the time of a fall in a river. This law of nature is as dependable as the sun rising in the east. I once fell in a river in a remote part of Canada. I had not seen another living soul in three days. But the moment I fell in, smirking people appeared from behind every tree, bush and rock in the area. A highly amused family of four materialized out of thin air. And there is nothing more pathetic to see than a moose looking in your direction and grinning with a mouth full of dripping vegetation. Anyway, the first time I used the “Woopsie Doodle Fall” I attempted to act as though I had planned the plunge all along. Just to cool down, you understand. Once I jumped back to my feet I exclaimed for all witnesses to hear, “Now that was refreshing! You should try it.” Immediately all smiles and smirks disappeared, replaced with groans of disappointment. I now know they expected far better of me, seeing how it was in the middle of February and snowing. It was then that I promised myself that I would never disappoint my witnesses again.
The next fall is the “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t Fall.” This is accomplished by wading into water stained enough that its bottom is not easily seen. Now all that is required is a shallow flat with a crater the size of a Volkswagen somewhere in it midst. What happens next is over in the blink of an eye. One last step into nothing and the river simply swallows the victim up in one quick gulp, the only visible item remaining being a hat floating downstream. That’s why this fall usually has little entertainment qualities for those present. In fact, if not looking in the right direction at the right time, it is not witnessed at all. Although a poor substitute, the sudden appearance of a human popping to the surface out of nowhere can be an unexpected surprise. And if done with a combination of heart-felt coughs, gags, and gasps for air, it can at least bring a sprinkling of amusement.
To Be Continued-The Art Of Falling In A River-Part 2