Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sentimental Sunday The Hero and White Water Rafting


This is a story written by our oldest daughter and myself.   We included her perspective and the Hero's.

Why I have never been white water rafting.
We did not have pictures from the trip.
Note: I'm steering clear of using specific names.

Back when I was around ten yrs. old or so our ward (church congregation) went on a trip to Waco Rock (not a place - just a big rock in the river called that) on the Guadalupe River in Texas. We all camped together and then the next day we were to go down in canoes or rafts down the river. I had never been but was excited - it sounded SO FUN.   My father, ever the cautious one, impressed upon me the importance of doing just as he said, and wearing my life jacket.  "People drown doing this," he said.

For some reason, my mother couldn't go. (I was pregnant with our 4th child, so I stayed home with the little ones).   Anyway, the point is, it ended up being only Dad and I on the trip, sleeping in our orange Volkswagen Bus that Dad had converted the backseat into a bed.

We got there late, but I still remember having fun. Campfires were going and we were invited to hang out with our neighbors and roast smores. Yum. However, the buzz going around the camp was that there might not be any rafting/canoeing the next day because earlier rains had caused the river to swell. My father made the instant decision - I was not going to go. I was SO disappointed. He made arrangements for me to stay with someone else in case he went - can you believe I don't remember who that was? I have a vague feeling it was Sister "T", but I can't remember for sure.

The next morning a joyful shout flew over the camp - Waco was open for business! My father started to crumble - I really, REALLY wanted to go. His arm went around my shoulders as he started to vacillate - he hated to see me disappointed. I remember a feminine voice of caution telling him he didn't want me on that river. It was too risky the voice said. So he left me behind.
The next few hours were the most terrifying I have ever experienced in my life - literally. Here is why:

About 30 minutes later there was a shout in camp - a canoe with one of our families had been overturned! We sped to a spot on the river and picked up the young girl - she was bruised from the water slamming her over and over against the rocks. She was shaking so bad from cold, shock, and fear. In the car she slumped back exhausted, while they checked her for broken bones.

I watched with growing fear as the women around me took her back to the camp, whispering that no one should have gone. I asked some questions about the teen, and they quickly tried to cover up what they had been saying, but the damage was done. I knew my daddy was in danger.  They tried to get me to play with the other kids, but I vividly remember the lazy dragonflies in the air as I looked across the way at our Volkswagen Bus and wondered how I would get home if my dad died. How would we get his body home? What would my mother do? I didn't want anything to happen like that. I remember crying.
What can I say - my imagination was always too good; twisted.   
 
Through that first part I learned my father & and a huge 6’+ man of about 290 pounds  had teamed up  to canoe. My dad’s partner showed up at camp awhile later, emerging from the trees. He was limping and had a broken nose. With me standing there, he spoke openly about how their canoe had flipped and pinned my dad underneath and knocked him into the rock. He said he'd had enough and decided to walk back to camp, but my dad had joined up with some kid that needed help. The kid's partner had also abandoned him on the river.
Dad was furious with Hugh for the spill they took. Here was his version: Before we started down the river we studied the approaches and decided that we would go down a specific side of the rock.  We gauged our paddling.  "As we started towards the rock, I was yelling at him to paddle to the left so we'd go one way but he kept paddling to the right against me... so we ended up against that damned rock and flipped. And I'm pinned under the canoe with my face smashed on the river bed against it like this (and then he'd do a mime of being pinned down).  My thoughts were I may die here.  And I would have drowned, except a canoe that was traveling just under water flowed over me and broke the suction popping me up off the floor of the river, letting me rise to the top."
 Back to my story:  I must have been beside myself with fear at that point. I vaguely recall someone saying, "take her to the end of the river so she can watch  the Hero." I can still see the rapids flowing over the rocks when we drove down to the ending point, my nose pressed against the glass, searching every raft that swept by. There were rangers of some sort all over the place. People were shaking getting out of their canoes and rafts. Word got around that they had shut the river down - it was a matter of just getting the people OUT now.
Kayaks, canoes and rafts, one after one showed up around the bend, some folks giving the rangers a hard time about having to get out. Then there was the guy who had a broken leg. I began to wonder if my dad had fallen in again - it seemed ages since his partner had shown up at camp. But finally, there he was - with a young man in a canoe. He made it, and gave me a BIG hug when he saw me.
My dad did go off on the park and how dare they allow anyone on a river like that! You had to know my dad. ;) 
But that's why I can't go white water rafting. I still WANT to, and I plan to force myself to overcome someday, but for now I still break out into a cold sweat thinking about it. We went floating down the Brazos at New Braunfels one year with my husband's parents, and although I didn't say it, I was terrified. But I did it - in a raft, not a tube. The saving grace - there's no rapids to deal with there. =)
From the Hummer:  I was just glad I wasn’t there and heard the story from them later.