Monday, August 13, 2012

The family that floats together has a lot of stories to tell

Original print date July 17, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

The family that floats together ... has lots of stories to tell!  The annual family float trip is over and I’m exhausted. Not because of the trip itself – I want to go back for more. It’s the unpacking, washing of clothes, and putting everything away that wears me out. But it is worth every ounce of energy it takes to recover.
Last week I told you about my lack of luck in the fishing department. Thankfully, that did get better – the last day we were there. In my defense, one of the naturalists at the lodge did say everyone was having a hard time catching much this year since the river was down and it had been so hot. I’ll stick with that excuse.
Once again the float trip was a memorable day. There were 22 of us in five rafts and enough food to feed everybody that floated by us that day. Yes, floated by us!  We got on the river about 10:30 a.m. and came off at 7:30 that night. We live by the motto that it is a “float” trip, not a “paddle” race. The only time the paddles tend to hit the water are when we come to a dead stop or if we need to direct ourselves away from hanging trees or clumps of grass on the edge. Snakes like those areas and staying away from snakes is a priority for most of us.
It isn’t hard to tell if the raft Larry is in gets anywhere near a snake. As it speeds past everyone else, I find myself looking for the motor mounted on the back. I then realize they don’t need a motor when Larry sees a snake. He paddles fast enough to outpace any outboard manufactured.
Several years ago we started renting the rafts versus the canoes. Several in the family cannot swim and we have increasing numbers of smaller cousins joining the floating crew every year so it made sense. The rafts won’t tip, dumping anyone into deep water. That doesn’t mean everyone stays dry.
It has become a tradition for the young men in the family to take Uncle John down at some point on the trip. This year was no exception. I made sure Zane and Mariska both had water guns insuring Donald wouldn’t have a dry spot on him the whole way. They take great pride in not only soaking him but anyone within range. Of course, we return the favor! 
My beautiful niece Heather decided I should go for a swim this year and swim I did – unintentionally. The water on her side of the raft was about stomach deep so she caught me not looking her way and off the side we went. Much to her surprise and mine, the water was much deeper on my side of the raft. Thank goodness I was close enough to the raft to grab a handle when I came back up and made it the five feet to shallower water. Revenge was pretty sweet though. I happen to catch her napping, face down on the raft and a paddle to the posterior served as payback.
We did have one unusual sighting this year. For the first time in nine years, we had a shark trailing one of our rafts. It was a little weird hearing the shark singing the Jaws theme song as he moved in closer to his prey. Never fear!  My sister has pretty good aim with a boat paddle and managed to make contact scaring the shark right out of the water and back to his raft. My guess is the shark – shall we call it Doug – won’t be looking for prey in the Current River next year.
I’m not sure why we rent a raft for Jake anymore. Our trip this year was an eight- mile adventure and I’m positive Jake was in the water for at least seven and a half miles. At least this year the group of boys in that raft didn’t flip it over and use it as a trampoline and diving board when they hit deep water.
When everyone loaded up and made it back to camp, Grandma Bonnie had enough food for an army cooked up to feed us all. After a full day in the sun, everyone was hungry and it all disappeared pretty quickly.
Not every memory from this year’s trip happened on the river.  Anyone that has camped at Montauk knows the chance of being visited by a skunk at camp of an evening is pretty high.  We had more than one encounter with our striped friends this year.  From digging in our trash to helping themselves to the leftover biscuits on the table, they certainly made their presence known. 
The evening the “kids” of the group decided to direct one out of the campground so they could visit in peace was almost entertaining.  As Joni came screaming into my trailer to watch from the almost closed door, I learned of the plan.  The skunk happened to be under my trailer at the time so I quickly informed the young men doing the skunk herding if it sprayed, I was taking one of their vehicles home.  The skunks are used to all the humans invading their terrain so fortunately for me and my living quarters, it never sprayed.  Even when grabbed by the tail and gently guided to the neighbors lot.
We laugh every year when we roll into the campground at Montauk. There is always somebody who hasn’t experienced this family reunion that comes up and asks where we left the horses. Some of the campers remember us from years past. It is kind of hard to forget all the horse trailers grouped together and our cook shack tent. We can’t help but have a good time when everybody gets together for breakfast every morning and supper every night.
It seems kind of crazy that all 24 members of my family pack up and drive the four plus hours every year to spend three days together acting like complete idiots. Everyone in the family but one lives within 10 miles of each other, but every year we gather the troops and head south for another float trip and fishing excursion.
Memories are made on and in the river that will forever be a part of our family. Every year we add a story to the float trip memory book. This year we had Jaws, the twitter patting armadillos, and close encounters with the skunk world. Only 51 more weeks until we write chapter 10 in that book and I can’t wait!

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