Most of the dads and some of the kids are gone now so I guess the statute of limitations has expired, and I can safely tell this story. I figure the entire crew of kids would have been decimated if our parents knew the truth.
We were blessed with our acres of woods to explore, and for us summer spelled freedom. Summer days were made for outside and outside we went. Army, gladiators, cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, Star Trek, bike rides, hide-n-seek, home run derby, spotlight—we had more to do than we could cram in before fall.
During rain delays we huddled under a camping canopy and sometimes listened to the Cincinnati Reds on the radio if we bent the coat hanger antenna just right. Imagine playing outside in the rain, getting soaked to the skin, then running in the sun until everything dried.
Then there were books. We rarely visited the library I guess because Mom never drove and Dad took the car to work. But we had a few books of our own with worn pages from multiple journeys through the stories. We took good care of those treasures and hated loaning them out to page-benders and pencil-markers.
Huck Finn had it made with his raft excursion down the Mississippi River. We checked the maps in the World Book Encyclopedia and were certain we could reach the Gulf of Mexico with a sea-worthy craft. Angel Fork, also called Little Browns Creek or just The Creek to us, trickled into Big Browns Creek which dumped into Coal River. Coal River slogged along into the Kanawha, and the Kanawha worked its way to the Ohio. Everyone knows the Ohio River joins the Mississippi somewhere out there, and water flows downhill so we saw no possibility of losing our way.
A crew of eight armed with bow saws, hatchets, and axes headed into the woods to harvest lumber. We felled three pine trees of thirty feet each, removed the limbs, and cut the remains into seven foot sections. Those logs would become the base of our Mississippi-bound raft. Using a combination of ropes, chains, and bicycles we pulled the logs out of the woods into the clearing beside the dirt road aptly named Main Drive. With a level of activity that rivaled Noah and his sons we set out to construct the greatest raft to ever sail The Creek.
We roped the logs together, smoothed the tops, and installed flooring made from old boards. One end of our craft sported a lean-to to serve as a comfortable place to rest after a healthy meal of freshly-caught fish. At the other end was the custom-engineered rudder mechanism. Everyone knows a dependable raft must be steered into the fastest currents.
Finally the raft was completed and we discovered the first oversight in our plan. Our dry dock, 100 yards from The Creek, had no easy access to water. With shovels and wheelbarrows we constructed a road. Additional trees sacrificed themselves to the cause, but that’s the cost of boat building.
After a week’s delay we prepared once again to deliver the raft to the water and discovered the second oversight in our plan. The raft weighed hundreds of pounds. How could we move it? We tried the old Egyptian pyramid scheme of roller poles (more trees sacrificed) but those sunk deep into the soil.
The deck of our ship proved an ideal spot for brainstorming but until inspiration hit, she would remained anchored on dry land. I kind of understood how Noah felt with his huge ark sitting in the middle of a field. I’m certain his neighbors enjoyed a laugh at his expense, those wise-acres and their snarky comments, “Guys like you don’t think things through, Noah.”
We were not to be denied our river adventure.
We’ll finish the story next time. I hope you will join us.