In Part 1 of this childhood memory I shared the second oversight in our rafting adventure—the gross weight of the completed vessel. Eight kids did not possess enough muscle power to dead-lift that raft and carry it 100 yards to the water. After considerable brainstorming and experimenting we designed a workable solution—add wheels!
With the strength that flows from desperation we raised one end of the raft high enough to stick a Radio Flyer wagon underneath. A wheelbarrow under the other end completed our crude boat trailer. Working with incredible precision to preserve the precarious balance and proceeding dead-slow ahead we united the raft with the water.
After a few poignant words of dedication and congratulations, the mandatory recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, and a prayer asking God for a safe journey we turned to the raft bobbing in the creek and prepared to board. She was yar and ready for anything.
And we discovered the third oversight in our plan.
With the entire crew onboard the raft floated under water. Someone would have to stay behind and wait for the next sailing. No one volunteered as each crew member hoped to make history. One insightful team member wondered how we would get the raft back from the Gulf of Mexico for a second float trip. No one had an answer.
How did youngsters resolve such conflicts? We were raised in freedom and democracy where folks figure out a way to get along so we drew straws. The results were binding. Starting with the longest straw and working downward we loaded bodies until the raft bobbed an inch or so above the water. Everyone else watched from the shore with no complaints. The straws had spoken.
Any one might have missed our fourth oversight. The section of the creek where we launched our vessel was 18” deep but downstream around the curve sand bars impeded traffic. The Army Corp of Engineers worked on the Kanawha and possibly parts of the Coal but no way would they travel to Angel Fork with a dredge. Besides, we never knew their phone number.
We dug sand and gravel until our arms ached, but there was not enough water to float the raft 50 yards much less all the way to Big Browns Creek. We polled her back and forth in the deepest thirty foot section and pretended. Sometimes that’s just as good as a real adventure.
As summer edged toward another school year we pulled our raft onto land and shackled her to a tree until spring rains arrived to recharge the creek flood waters. Weeds sprouted up, and the creeping jungle overtook her. We all but forgot about that majestic vessel.
But she had one more journey and waited patiently to reward our raft-building craftsmanship with a tale of epic adventure.
Fast forward several months to those spring rains which brought torrential floods to our valley. Those roiling waters scoured the creek and its banks. Our craft broke loose and encountered no restrictions as she bounced happily downstream and lodged against the culvert (really big pipe) that gave the neighborhood its only car crossing.
Fathers came home early and parked on the other side of the creek. I can still hear their anxious voices as they worked with their poles and shovels trying to save the day. “There’s something lodged there backing up the water. Looks like a bunch of logs. We gotta knock ‘em loose or the road’s gone.”
We knew. We exchanged nervous looks, but we kept quiet.
The culvert washed out and the road was blocked. For many days we walked across a pair of nailed planks to get to the school bus or to church. That balancing act was not too bad as long as one did not look down into the moving water. One afternoon we exited the school bus and found that a real bridge with steel and pure white concrete spanned the creek. Uptown for sure!
I like to think our raft made it to the Mississippi…even if we were left behind.