The Boat

Time spent at Aunt Sherry’s house was cathartic in a lot of ways. Thinking back on that time there was a lot of downtimes; time spent just lazing the days away. However, there were also times when Randy and I would come up with some crazy idea and start something that would be special in some way. Ideas that in retrospect were stories from childhood that would stick with my mind and grow into tales of meaning and adventure.

There was an old barn across the road from Randy’s house. It was falling apart. The walls were leaning at an odd angle and walking into it, you always had to watch your feet for fear that there might be a copperhead lurking under each board. Truthfully, there most likely was, but when we entered that place, it was with a purpose. Usually, it was to get boards. The rusty nails didn’t offer much resistance to our yanks as we would cart tons of this stuff over to the river and up into a tree to make our treehouse. One summer I came back to Aunt Sherry’s only to find that Randy had built an elaborate spire of platforms and walls, and even trap doors into the tree.

At one point we were “fishing” for catfish one night and decided that building a fire on the wooden floor of one of the platforms was a great idea. Twenty minutes into the fire and the fire itself suddenly disappeared in a bright flash. Having burned a hole through the floor, the entire campfire fell right through it and landed on the ground twelve feet below in a spectacular explosion of sparks. We howled in laughter.

One time, we were hunting through the old barn and came across a large tractor tire insert. It was the large rubber part that would go inside the hard ribbed rubber outsole of the tire. Upon examining it, it was clear that if we blew air into this tire, it would expand and become a huge innertube. At first, we were thinking about how neat it would be to go down the river with this large innertube, but as we talked about it, an idea wormed its way into my mind. What if we strapped boards to the top of this and made it into a boat?

So that’s what we did. Taking rope we lashed a platform of boards to the top of the innertube and created a fine boat. We went into the woods and cut down some small trees and removed the limbs to make some twelve-foot-long poles to act as quant poles used to push us through the water instead of paddles. My Uncle helped us to load the boat into the back of his truck and then drove several miles up the river. After unloading the boat into the water, we set sail down the river back towards Randy Allen’s house.

Several times during the journey, we got stuck on sand bars or other obstacles, but we managed to get ourselves free and continue on. After what I remember to be a long time, like nearly an hour, we arrived at the section of the river behind Randy’s house. Since things had gone so well, we decided to continue going. We continued sailing down the river until we got to the old swimming hole where the snakes hung from the giant beach tree. We continued on. However, it was just after this point those things got a little hairy. With the addition of the creek water entering the river at the swimming hole, the river itself got much swifter, deeper, and wider.

It was becoming much more difficult and often impossible for us to steer, slow, and especially to stop our boat. In the end, after trying for some time to get the boat over the side of the river so that we might walk home and have Uncle Randy come to retrieve our boat with his truck, we were unable to stop it. We abandoned our boat, which continued to sail down the river without us. I like to think that somewhere down there it made it out to the ocean and saved some shipwrecked sailors.

D. Michl Lowe

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