How Much to Get Drown and Shot? Part V

I’ve always been happily surprised about rocks encountered under the surface of fast moving, fresh water. That might sound odd until you understand that most of the submerged rocks that I’ve encountered in my life were in the ocean. These tend to be sharp, covered in disgusting, entangling seaweed and for a bonus, sprinkled with razor sharp barnacles or little living pincushions called sea urchins. The exposed bit of flesh that gets dragged across or smashed into it by the assassin like wave you never saw coming, tends to fair pretty badly. Then, there’s the fun of having salt water rushing into the new wound. SUCH FUN!

As my head scraped along the bottom, I looked out through what appeared to be the inside view of a snow globe. The water was crystal clear and what made for spray and foam on the surface, were zillions of dancing bubbles that tickled your skin, here in the belly of the river. The rocks were smooth and slime free here and it looked more like a meticulously carved waterslide than the maw full of pointed teeth that I had imagined. I began to realize that there was likely no way a person could actually injure themselves on the rocks, even if they tried. The water just swirled them safely away. There was still the drowning aspect to consider though and with that in mind, I pushed off the smooth granite with my feet. After a brief moment of “What-the-hell?” when I bonked my head on the upturned raft, I managed one again to suck some air into my lungs and was released from the watery silence and into the roar of the river and catcalls from others who were there to witness this scheduled car crash. We were helped out of the water, found our towels and headed for lunch.

Much of the rest of the day was consumed with…. Well… consuming. I did mention the bar, correct? Sandwiches were eaten, beers were had and as more and more waterlogged campers showed up, the four of us made room. In the evening, we chatted with others, compared rafting experiences and when those ran out, dragged out the war stories that every young man seems to have. More beer, more stories, bigger logs on the campfire. It was a great way to round out the day.

We were careful not to over do it too much though. Tomorrow we needed to be on our game. We needed to stay sharp. After all, the guy you sitting next to, laughing and offering you the next round, was going to be chasing us through the woods, trying like hell to shoot us. To be fair, we’d be trying to do the exact same thing. It was going to be fun!

(insert gross generalization here:)

We all choose to do stupid things. If you’re a girl, the stupidity tends to fall into the category of dating the guy with the huge motorcycle and the neck tattoos, spending a month’s wages on a pair of shoes or asking your flellah If he likes the green scarf or the blue one better. All in all, it’s mostly emotional pain they inflict on themselves. Guys, on the other hand, tend to make their stupid decisions with physical pain as part of the deal. Blood is a common sight among young (and old for that matter) boys. Both sexes will insist that it was all worth it. We humans are kind of predictably thick that way.

I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet that if you could build a time machine and go back to an age before the invention of gunpowder, somewhere you could witness the moment where two little boys would be running around, playing and one boy would cock his finger, point it at the other, and as he brought his thumb down, yell, “BANG!”

“What was that?” the other would say.
“I don’t know. I just felt like I had to do it.”
Shall I try it?
“No, you can’t! I already shot you!”
Looking confused. “…With what?”
“I have no idea. But you’re dead and I win!”

The satisfaction felt by the first boy would be immeasurable. It’s in our DNA. What can I say?

Shooting stuff is a pleasure that seems to be innate in boys. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t avid female shooters out there. I know they’re are (and I’m not just saying that because I live with a woman who owns her own high powered rifle). It’s just that, like it or not, boys want to shoot things. Most of us make do with fingers, sticks or toys. A few of us get to actually do it for fun!

Technically, what we had were NOT called guns. Actually, if you called them a “gun” you’d usually wind up with some stern looking individual in body armor and protective mask wagging his finger at you and telling you to cut it out and use the correct term. They were markers. Paintball markers. And don’t you forget it.

paintball gun

I’m here to tell you something.

That’s bull.

They are guns.

Wonderful, WONDERFUL guns… that shoot paintballs!

The idea behind them was one of the best B.S. cover stories that I’ve ever heard. It goes something like, “The Forest Service guys needed a way to quickly mark trees for cutting. After years of first, tying on little bits of cloth to use as markers and then later turning to spray paint, some enterprising forester came up with the idea of using paint, held inside a gelatin ball. The ball could then be flung from an air hose… thing… that he cleverly decided to call a “marker” rather than, “An awesome paint shooting gun that you could ‘accidentally’ pop the other ranger in the back of the head with when he wasn’t looking.” You can guess which project pitch would more successfully receive funding. The final product was a gizmo that looked like a gun, made a sound like a gun and worked like a gun, but was called a “marker” so that it might slip below the radar of helicopter parents and anti-gun wonks.

Marker.
Gun.
Whatever.
Lets just call in what it is… A BLAST!!!.. I mean… paintballing.

Paintballing is perhaps the pinnacle of every little boy’s dream about shooting. No more, “I got you! – No you didn’ts.” No more, “You’re out of ammo – No, I’m not’s.” No more, “You missed – Nuh –Uh’s.” Here you got to actually shoot your friends and there was no begging off. It is awesome.

Oh… And it hurts. That somehow makes it all the better. To most boys, this is an important component. Don’t believe me? Ask any little boy if he wants to play touch football or tackle. Parents want to see “touch.” Kids want to pummel each other, and right now, we were getting ready to pummel everyone we could… using marble sized blobs of paint fired from high pressure air guns as many times as we possibly could. Tomorrow was going to be fun!

-Ok. Maybe the next post will be the last one in the story…. No promises though.

How Much to Get Drown and Shot? Part IV

Somehow, not only did I manage to stay in the boat, but so did everyone else as well. As it turns out, making the raft out of rubber is a very clever thing to do. As we headed over the edge, the entire boat started to bend, undulating down the falls like an enormous, drunk slug. All we needed to do was ride the slug!

Laughing, shivering and lightly sputtering, we peeked out from under the edges of our helmets and waited for what was next. As it turned out, the command was to start paddling like mad. Our uber-hip river master in the stern had us come about hard and head for the opposite bank of the river. More miniature falls awaited us as we zigzagged back and forth, purposely aiming for the spots that looked the nastiest. Charged up with an unhealthy quantity of whitewater fueled bravery, we obediently flailed away at the current until we were poised to make yet another run over the rocks.

This was getting fun! I was feeling downright competent after we easily negotiated the third or fourth pile of frothing river and thought that all the helmets and lifejackets were a bit overkill for the activity. A few moment’s later, I started to reconsider this.

“Now this is where we really hit some rapids.” The voice of Uber-Cool came to us from his seat where he had been steering our raft. “When I say to, everyone stow their paddle, fast! I’ll do the steering but you don’t what paddles out when we go through the gap!”

Gap?

Just ahead of us, massive rock formations started to squeeze the river down narrower and narrower. The water foamed and picked up speed quickly. Then, just as we heard the command, “Now! Stow paddles!” I watched from my figurehead like seat, river simply dropped from view. No sooner had we complied with the order than the raft shot through a water carved opening in a wall of stone barely wider than our boat. If we had paddles out, they would have been smacked back on both sides. And then, we were airborne.

rafting2
(Not us, but you get the idea)

Something a tad unusual about me is my relationship to water. I can swim, obviously. I wouldn’t have imperiled myself like this if I couldn’t. I mean, really? Who would? The problem I have is with the act of swimming. I’m not bad at it, but it’s not what I ever would do for fun. You see; I sink.

The moment I stop actively working at remaining on the surface, I inexplicably go right to the bottom. My wife, who is a water baby and would live in a swimming pool if we had one, doubted me for years and simply assumed that I was being a curmudgeon when we went to the beach and I inevitably begged off getting in the water myself. Finally, after years of implied curmudgeonhood, I proved my point by simply walking into the water. Just before my head disappeared, I took in a nice big breath and strode beneath the waves like Godzilla walking into the sunset, but much paler and less scaly. From the surface she watched through goggles as I simply strolled along the bottom in slow motion until my air gave out and I swam my way back to the top. Swimming is nothing but work for me and so I avoid it.

As the raft hit the froth, I just managed to shut my mouth in time before the river filled it for me. Sputtering, I came to the surface, clinging to our raft with the zeal of someone who just got religion. Better than half of my boatmates managed the same trick and after we fished the less pious ones out of the water, we paddled for shore, laughing, grinning, some hacking up a bit of fun here and there, but all alive. Uber-cool was not satisfied. Obviously, we were doing it wrong. A quick and soggy seated van ride back to our starting point and las than five minutes later, we were back on the river once more.

“This time,” Uber-cool informed us, “I’m going to hit the gap a little differently. We’ll probably loose more people this time.”

I didn’t like the way that was put. I didn’t really feel like being “lost,” even if it was planned. As he promised, he managed to hit the falls in such a way that the raft took on a life of its own. It bucked like it was alive and a good thee quarters of the paddlers went flying into the drink. Thanks to the type of work I was doing at the time, I had a pretty mean grip, and do to this, and only this, I managed to stay attached as my entire body was catapulted from the raft. Hanging on to the line that circles the boat, I remember looking down on it with my feet high above me. When we crashed back down, I literally dove back into my seat. Slightly painful, but less drown-y.

Still unsatisfied, (they must have had a betting pool going), Uber-cool set us up again for a third go and this time met with success. Getting the best view of the swirling water possible, my head was the first part of our ship of fools to hit. The raft had gone end over end and landed upside down to the cheers and hoots from those on shore.

Last, (or possibly, Second to Last) installment later…

How Much to Get Drown and Shot? Part III

As it turned out, we had a while to wait once we get the to the rafts. The big black masses sat in the grass like rubbery, inflated whale carcasses and we, playing that part of lazy and opportunistic seagulls, lazed all over them in the sun. It was just too inviting in the cool morning air not to stretch out on their black and rapidly warming cadavers. Finally, once some unknown criteria was met, (perhaps the river was deemed wet and hungry enough to be fed stupid Americans) we were told to listen up as someone I gauged to be far to young to be in command, stood up on a nearby humpback and gave us our last, “this is how not to die” talk. He was obviously knowledgeable about his topic and his painfully groomed, nature-boy look gave his words gravitas, at least among those who weren’t snickering at him. Again, I remember nothing of the talk. You can blame it on the river water that later clogged those synapses, if you like.

As different groups grabbed various rafts and headed for the water, my brain momentarily switched back to Dad control and, drawing on many years of reflexively trying to snag the front car on every rollercoaster I’d ever ridden, I impulsively took a front row position in my own raft. I rationalized this to my Mom’s side by hypothesizing that when we hit the whitewater bow first, I would not have to worry about loosing my front teeth on the helmet in front of me. I tried not to think about the rocks and their role in the fun-to-be.

The river was looking downright placid where we put in and fairly shallow as well. Looking down through the crystal clear and heartstoppingly cold water, I could clearly see softball sized rocks rolling by on the riverbed not far below me. It was shallow enough to stand up and fairly quiet, but the river was wide here. That changed ahead. That’s a lot of river to squeeze down. Things would change soon.

Behind me, The Doctor was paddling away and as I glanced around I spotted Ioseph and Mountain Man happily chatting as they dutifully drove us on down the river. It had been a long time since I had seen them together in a raft together and Mountain Man, for one, looked far more relaxed this time.

Our previous raft adventure had been years and years prior and the boats were far less rugged. And smaller. Much, much smaller. That time, My Father, Ioseph, Mountain Man and I had gotten it into our heads to go and visit a lighthouse on a nearby island. The Doctor had been absent, and as has been the case in previous adventures, when one of the “Group of Four” was missing, my Dad happily filled the spot. The island in question wasn’t more than a quarter mile off shore and was famous for being covered in the most luscious blueberries and raspberries. They grew so plentifully, that they stained the rocks as they fell from the bushes.

Armed with Ziploc bags for the berries, two inflatable rafts of the department store variety, life jackets, paddles and at least three brain cells, we cast off from shore and rowed like heck for deep water. I was in the raft with my Dad and when we were roughly half way there, my Dad happened to look back to check on the second boat. He immediately burst into poorly stifled laughter. Glancing up from my furious water pummeling, I could scarcely manage the same. The other raft was bobbing along after us but the occupants made for quite a picture. Ioseph, roughly the size and shape of a bear had just about bent the raft in half as Mountain Man, tall, thin, lanky Mountain Man perched on the bow like a worried pirate’s monkey. The look on his face said it all and as far as I can recall, it’s the only time I’ve ever seen him afraid for his life. Ohhh, for a waterproof camera!

This time, things looked downright orderly. We had a huge boat, filled with behelmeted, smiling fools, our life jackets were actually being worn and I’m guessing that the dozen or so of us had nearly ten brain cells that functioned! We were set!

The tempo of the river started to get faster and we needed to paddle less and less to make headway and more and more just to go in the desired direction. Mostly submerged rocks made the water start to froth here and there and then, I saw it. The first waterfall.

As waterfalls go, it wasn’t something terribly spectacular. You’ve no doubt driven by more menacing ones with out noticing them at all. If you brought a date out to see it, you’d never hear the end of it. It was perhaps seven feet high, but lest me tell you this: When you’re actually ON the water, that’s a mean looking seven feet. My face froze in that “I’mhavingfunohmyGOD!” grimace as the water that had previously been under my bit of raft dropped away. As the whole thing started to nose over the edge with me as the hood ornament, all I could hear was the rush of falling water and from behind me, The Doctor yell, “YAY! WE’RE DOOOOMED!”

I didn’t even register the full body smack of the freezing cold water. Adrenalin is simply amazing stuff.

-Later, Parte the IV!

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