The man had finally had it. Repeated adversities had befallen him while all around him prospered…he had to know why. He looked to the heavens and spoke from the pain and torment in his soul.
“I am a good father, a loving husband, I give generously to those in need… why do these things keep happening to me?!”
A moment of silence, then the skies opened and a voice from the heavens said…
“I dunno… something about you just pisses me off.”
In defense of all things heavenly, the description of the good-deed-doer above isn’t me, no doubt any tragedy coming my way is earned. Nonetheless, it appeared this month as though someone wanted my attention. That’s ok, I like to think of myself as open to suggestion. Then again I like to think of myself as “tall” and that isn’t really true either.
Subtle Hint #1 – The Canoe trip:
We had a few storms on arrival at the Big Piney (note: that’s understated). I’d been on this body of water at flood stage before, have canoed this water for 2 decades, and it can be fun. It can also be dangerous, as indicated by the fact that the only time I’d been on it this high we’d ended our day shortly after coming across an accident that included a fatality. [That’ll suck the fun right outta the day.]
The photo above looks like pretty wimpy whitewater, but when you consider it’s a picture of something called “Long Pool” it gives you an idea of conditions. We tried the short run (aka: the “easy” run) and by “we” I mean me and the only other guy dumb enough to get on the water with me (Hi Robert, you made my blog!). There was originally a 2 boat armada for safety, but the guy with boat #2 bailed just before we hit the water. I didn’t discover this until we were ON the water. So much for a backup.
They say “nature abhors a vacuum”, but for the record, I’ve noticed she’s none too fond of whitewater canoeists either. We made it a few miles, lost it, my PFD tried to strangle me while standing waves tried to drown me, got thrown against a bluff at about 35 mph, slammed in the back by the canoe that was thrown right after I was, sucked down by a vortex while the current tried to pin me to the concave wall, made it to the surface (barely and only for split moments), and had made it around the bluff and was struggling on the boundary between the current and a lifesaving eddy when I was assisted to shore by a kayaker… he and his buddy were about the only other boats on the water, but were there at the right time and in the appropriate craft.
Initially his assistance came in the form of telling me to swim to shore. Normally I’d have asked if I really looked like I was trying to decide whether to do that or to go try and gargle a few more rounds of standing waves, but I was far too busy trying to stay alive to think of saying anything cute, and the fact that I was on this water in an open boat gave him every reason to suspect I might just be that stupid. He did let me drag on the back of his kayak when he realized just how spent I was… a bold move on his part… I could have dropped him into the water beside me with the wrong move.
He may have been an angel in my eyes, but the all-seeing Terry Moore who runs Moore’s Outdoors assured me he’s known locally as Hippie Bob or somesuch. I’ll ask next year… I was a little too outta things this time (I’m blaming a headfirst shot into a rock wall). Etiquette usually dictates I at least know the name of those who help me to safety while I gurgle pleas for mercy. My canoe partner turned up (alive thankfully) about 2 more miles downstream. The boat, it could be anywhere now, but it was not high on my list to worry about it at that particular moment. I walked through about a mile of cows on Bates Farm and hitched a ride to go find help.
When they make the movie I’m gonna rewrite this entire scene. For starters, in my version I’ll heroically drag Robert to safety by holding the edge of his lifejacket in my teeth while I swim instead of momentarily pondering the feasibility of hitting him on the head with a paddle and using his inert body as a flotation device. Might also wanna change those seriously unmacho moments where I made promises about stuff I’d do if I lived (and I really hope these weren’t taken seriously). Meanwhile I hear the locals renamed Bates Bluff in honor of my exploits, so if you ever go thru Arkansas you might wanna stop and visit Dumbass Texan Ridge.
Subtle Hint #2 – The Mare Does a Backflip
Still sore but glad to be alive… after a few days of recuperation at home I hit the trails on horseback with Doug Packer (one of the canoe trippers) and his daughter. No problem, been riding these trails for years. Safe at last. I told my sore bod all the same reassuring things the Skipper probably said to Mrs. Howell as he loaded the last trunk with her summer minks aboard before setting off for a simple 3 hour tour.
My mount was a mare I’d ridden some but is still new to these trails. She’s got a nice racing pedigree (read that: she’s inbred, nervous by nature, and capable of moving at ridiculously high speeds). Notwithstanding an early departure from the ride by my wife when her horse decided the boats on the lake were out to get him, the ride started pretty well, though my ride insisted she preferred not to go down the trail at one point where the creek IS the trail. She isn’t real big on creeks, possibly having heard about my recent display of skill on a creek known as the Big Piney. She’d tried this same routine recently with my son aboard, and he wisely got off.
It seemed the thing to do was to get her to do the thing she feared. [OK, it *seemed* the thing anyway.] She went into the creek after serious coercion, then spooked bigtime and immediately opted to climb a vertical wall on the opposite side of the creekbed with me aboard. Wouldn’t really have minded this but for the fact that the top of the ledge was blocked by trees, so when she stopped forward motion gravity refused to be further denied… she fell backwards on top of me.
As she prefers to do a job well if she’s gonna do it at all, she then rolled over me twice, then (I swear this is true) removed castanets from somewhere and danced a sterling flaminco number on my torso.
Both instances above were a tad closer to fatal than preferred, but nothing happened in either but a few sore muscles and bruises (ok, and a lost canoe). “Miraculous” could be used in both cases, cause I was starting to be pretty worried the water was gonna win in the first case, and all that came to mind while going doing a backflip with a horse on top was “Isn’t this how McMurtry killed off Newt in the Lonesome Dove trilogy?” [Yes, it was.]
The thing on the water was the result of dumb decisions. The bit with the horse was, well, part of riding, it happens. Still, my attention has been gotten, and hopefully I have responded correctly.
Anyway, for future reference on the topic of getting my attention… a shiny object is pretty much all it takes. No need for crashing waters and aerobatic horses. Moses went for the burning bush, and in my opinion there’s a lot to be said for that route. Roasting a shrub without consuming it is always cool, and doesn’t require near as many icepacks afterward.
Oh well, for what it’s worth, I think the point I may have been missing is summed up in a line I’ve said several times lately, to wit… “Dang, I’m gettin’ too old for this stuff!” With that in mind, I’m trying out a new sport. [See action shot below.]
Oh Yeah… I’m Rob Jones, and I approve this message.