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Archive for June 16th, 2009

So, I promised you a river report from the weekend activities.  Before I begin, I just want to tell you that we have had some very heavy rain in the area and the USGS Real Time Water Data report indicates that the Niangua River has risen approximately three feet in the last half hour.  It would be interesting to be out there right now, if a trifle wet.

We got wet on Sunday when we floated, some of us got wetter than others.  We were graced on this float by the presence of a person whose job it is to captain a tug boat on the Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio River system, pushing loads of up to 35 barges up and down stream.  A very long time ago in my high school English class, we were warned against what our textbook referred to as “Glittering Generalities”, which were statements that made generalizations about entire groups of people.  But I have to say that over the years, the people I have met who have been licensed as Masters of ships have been uniformly arrogant, self-important and quite assured of their knowledge on ALL subjects, not the least of which is ship handling.   This person did not change my experience in any way.

Now, I grant you, handling 35 barges, a container ship, a cruise liner, or a supertanker is a complicated job, and the people who are engaged in that profession are also saddled with Responsibility (and I capitalize that consciously) — both for the ship and the personnel who operate it.  That sort of pressure can make you arrogant and self-important, and perhaps that is an important component of being a ship’s captain.   However, one should be able to leave that attitude behind when approaching a new field of endeavor.

This person was on his first float trip.  At the very beginning of the day, the experienced floaters in the party tried to assist him in learning the new skill of canoe handling.   We attempted to impart the esoteric secrets of the “j stroke”, the idea of attaching your equipment to your boat so it wouldn’t be lost if you flipped the canoe, and sundry other items of useful information.  The truly unfortunate fact was, all the most experienced canoers the other day happened to be women, so none of our information or expertise was deemed useful or interesting.   Even when none of us were having trouble staying upright, or directing our canoes in the direction we wished them to go, our tips were studiously ignored.   He knew everything, and certainly “Women” could not possibly teach him anything.

We were not surprised when he managed to flip his canoe over before he was 20 feet from the put in, and during the course of the day he managed the trick at least five more times.  Needless to say, being very polite, we did not laugh or poke fun at him (despite the acute temptation), assisted him to remove the water from his canoe and retrieved his belongings from the river several times.  Mostly we did this all in support of his poor wife, who began the trip by confiding in us that she has a phobia of drowning.   She was slightly comforted by my telling her that all sane people have a phobia of drowning, actually.  Her husband felt that it was extremely amusing to rock the boat suddenly, so that he could pick at her for her fearful reaction.

But enough about misogynistic bastards.

When my sweet son was here last, he presented me with a set of ballistic eye protection.   While it is nice to know that I can take a shotgun blast full in the face with these on and not lose my sight, I hope that attribute will never be put to the test.  When I am helping Jim run the grinder and/or chainsaw, it gives me a great sense of security to have them on.  They are great sunglasses too; I really like the way they wrap around and keep the sun from blinding me from the side.  Here I am, at the beginning of the float trip, modeling them.   I am pointing off down the river saying, “Men!  We are going that way!”

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It was an easy float.   I took Ruby along for the first time in over a year.   When she was very small, she did not really enjoy float trips.  She has issues, you know.   Her problem is that she is so bonded to me, she just can’t stand to be too far away from me.   So there is internal conflict for her during many points of a float.   She can not swim as fast as I can paddle.   However, she could run along the river bank like Slick (her brother) does, and thereby get far ahead of the floaters.  Then she could wait around downstream wondering what is taking everybody so long.  If she does join Slick in this method of travel, it does not take her very long to get very obsessed by the fact that she is not near me, and so she gets back in the river (where I am) and swims back upstream to where I am, rather than running back up along the bank.  If I pass her and get too far ahead, she starts to whimper and complain.  “You are going too fast, don’t leave me behind, I can’t keep up, wait, Mom. . . Mom? . . . MOM!”  she seems to be saying.   So I back paddle to slow down so she can catch up.  As soon as she passes me, she starts worrying about where I am and the fact that I am behind her and she can no longer see me.  It seems to help if she can hear my voice, however.

However, I think it is clear how she feels about the whole experience, despite the insecurity issues.

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Yeah.  It is a lot of fun.  We stopped for lunch on a gravel bar, and made a small fire to cook hot dogs and bratwurst, which pleased the children with us.

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It was during this gravel bar period that we discovered that Ruby’s true vocation is to be a lifeguard.

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As long as the children were in the water, she was watching out for them.   It didn’t hurt that the kids thought that throwing sticks for Ruby was a great game.   I had to make them stop throwing the waterlogged ones, since Ruby would swim around and look for them incessantly even though they had sunk to the bottom shortly after being flung.   You had to throw a stick she could retrieve before she would return to shore.   She takes her job very seriously, if you throw something she is supposed to bring it back, dag nab it, and she isn’t going to quit her mission just because the thing thrown is no longer available to be retrieved.

Ruby is not the only dog on the float trip who believes that humans need to be herded and directed.   Slick also has a very strong sense of responsibility.  He knows where the gravel bars are and where we should stop.   Even when the river is high and the gravel bar is under water, he will try to usher you in for a landing there.   By God, we Always Stop Here!   Even if “here” is not strictly “there” today.

At the end of the float, water was going over the slab, and there was a nice standing wave that a kayak can surf if positioned correctly.   Jeri was going to demonstrate this activity.

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Slick did not approve.   We were at the end of the float, the coolers were unloaded, Jeri was NOT supposed to be in a boat below the slab.

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She had to return to shore and have someone hold Slick before she could get herself properly positioned on the wave to surf.

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It was a great day, but when was the last day we had a bad day on the river?

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