Current River Adventure of 2009
Every story has to start somewhere, even one that took place yesterday has to have roots somewhere earlier in time.
My Current River Adventures of past and the one this year all have a history, though I cannot say I remember most of
it. However, I will share as much of it as I can and hopefully you will get the gist of how this all started.. The exact facts
probably would not make for a better story.
I seem to have always been fascinated with small boats, not for what they are, but for what they could do for me. And, I
seem to have always been a natural at paddling a small boat. The first small boat that I can remember is one that my
dad built, or tries to build in our yard when I was around five or so years of age. As I recall, he got his hands on some 1”
x12”x8' lumber and tried to make what would best be described as a floating box. And, once hammered together with
nails, he got his hands on some tar and tried to seal the cracks well enough that it would float. Truth is, I don't
remember it ever being used very much, as if I or anyone, including dad, knew the purpose for which it had been built.
As I recall, it was so heavy, only a champion weight-lifter could handle it.. I vaguely remember seeing it in the water on
one of the local creeks. I think once was the extent of its use. The next time I remember it, was when it turned up in our
largest minnow pond. A 1.5 acre pond dad had built for the purpose of raising minnows. This is a story in itself, so we
will do that later, but the primitive boat somehow made its way there. I think it got grounded on the south bank, and
was never used again. What it did until it got to this pond is a mystery, because I was already in college when I last
saw this boat, or what was left of it. The last I saw of it was a small corner sticking out of the pond water. As the years
went by, the corner disappeared. I will assume that somewhere in the mud on the south side of that pond is the rotting
remains of the first wooden boat I was ever in or was around.. I think I was in it, but am not sure.. I think it made it to the
pond so my dad could use it in the minnow business. He would use it to spread chemicals and pull the moving end of
out longest seines. I do know the ponds were not built until after I graduated from high school in 1969. But, there was
another boat. When the wooden boat thing did not work out, my dad purchased a new aluminum boat. I'm guessing it
was 10 foot long. I never measured it. And as I recall, I was still in early grade school when he bought this boat. The
two most vivid memories I have of dad's boats are not good. The first memory is of my dad deciding we would go
fishing in one of them, might have been the wooden one, in a creek about 6 miles east of where we lived.. The creek is
still there, but I don't know the name at this moment. Somehow, there was only one paddle and one fishing pole, at
least that is how I remember it. So, guess what, dad is going to do the fishing and I am going to do the paddling.. Well,
guess what, I was good at it.. So, I got to paddle all day!!! That in itself would not be so bad, but, I was only wearing a
bathing suit.. And, this was the days before anyone ever heard of sun screen...
The day we did this fishing trip, the sun was out in full force. I paddled, and I paddled, and I paddled.. Actually the sun
felt pretty good. Now sometime late in the day, it was time to head home. I have no idea if we had any fish or not, but
we were going home. Knowing my dad, we were going to spend a lot of time on the river, so I am guessing it was late
when we got home. If the story ended there, it would be okay, but no, the real problems with that day were yet to
come.. I think it was sometime later that night that my skin started hurting so bad I thought I was going to die. My back
and the tops of my legs were blood red, I was cooked by the sun. I was developing something on the order of a blister
(s). Had this happened today, I would have been in the hospital. But, country people do not do that. You live, or you
die. My mom was no doctor for sure, but she had heard that putting vinegar on sunburns was good.. OUCH!!! I have
no idea if it was good or not, but from the pain that I felt when she put it on and the smell of the stuff, I am guessing it
was doing more harm than good.. I pretty much cried in pain for the next several days.. I certainly did not wear clothes..
As I recall, I did wear a pear of underwear, but that was about it.. I could not stand for anything to touch me.
As I recall, we had not gotten indoor plumbing yet, so we took our summer baths outside at the back of the house. We
had a well about five feet from the back door of the house. The well had a concrete pad around it that was connected
to the back door of the house. Step out the back door onto this concrete pad and you could draw water and take a
bath.. Truth is, the well water was hard, and it was cold, so it did not make good bath water. For bath water, I think we
were using water we got from a pond.. But, might have heated the well water.. Point being here is that I had to take a
bath at night while standing on concrete at the back of the house. I might have been doing this alone up until the
sunburn, but now mom had to help.
The bathing routine was coming along okay each day until one day when I looked down and say these two big bags of
something on top of my legs!! Mercy, now what? As it turn out, the bags were full of water.. The blistered skin on the
tops of my legs had started to come loose and was turning loose in one sheet. The tops of the skin patches had come
loose and were letting bath water get in.. Looking pretty weird.. Now, how to get it out!!! Mom went in the house, got a
pin and bunched holes in the bottoms of the pockets to drain the water out.. Later the skin on top of each leg came off
as single sheets.. As I recall, I kept these sheets for a long time. The same happened to my back, the skin came off in
one solid sheet. This was adventure one.
Adventure two with dad was on one of his famous, “we can get the big one” trips.
On this trip, we are taking the new aluminum boat. And again, I am doing all the paddling. My dad had this thing about
doing things bigger and better than the other guy, but of course he did not prepare for it, he just decided to go do it..
Fishing was one of those things. No need to plan the trip, just do it.. Of course, nearly anything so done is risking some
serious issues.. I do not remember just how he started this adventure, but by the time I got to it, it was already started.
One of his favorite ways to catch the big one was to trout line fish. This means stringing a line across a body of water,
putting drop lines, hooks with bait on the line, then let nature do the rest. Generally a person will string a short line of
100 feet or so in an area of a river and let it go at that, but not my dad.. For this particular adventure, he wanted to
catch all the fish that moved in the river, so I would guess... As I recall, I went with him to “set out the line” as it is
called. A line would have been great. However, he has bought what seems to be all the line in the county and is going
to string it all out at once.. This is still okay, but by the time we get started, it is getting dark.. Now, we are stringing line
and night is upon us.. As the time went by, we laced back and forth across this poor little creek so many times that the
lines we were putting out started to look like a spider web on the river.. I suggested we use less line. Nope, got to do
this right. Well, we could do it in the daytime, nope, got to do it now.. And so we continued on.. I was trying to paddle
with one hand and hold a light with the other.. Was doing pretty good if I must say so myself. Being good with the
paddle, I was moving the boat up to and into some pretty tight places and holding it there while dad tied off his lines,
etc... I kept saying that I sure thought we had out enough line to catch everything in the area.. Wasted talk on my part,
but that was about to change. Dad had been grabbing limbs and holding on here and there as he tied his lines.. At one
particular point in the adventure, he wanted me to take him to a big limb hanging over the water.. I had a funny felling
something was not right about him doing this. Just as we pulled up to the big tree limb, I grabbed the flashlight and
pointed it at the limb at the very spot where he was going to grab hold. And keep in mind, the boat is now under the
limb. Just as he reached out, and I shined the light, I saw the two snakes only inches from his hand. I screamed
“snake”, just as he was ready to grab what he thought was a tree limb.. Somehow, my scream caused him to jerk his
hand back. I will never know, but I think the hearts in both of us must have stopped for a beats. He almost fell back in
the boat and had the strangest look on his face... I think he realized then how we had stayed out too late that evening..
After a short break to catch our breath, he agreed to head home and let the fishing adventure wait until daylight. We
I don't know how that particular fishing adventure ended for him, as I headed back to college at the end of the
weekend. I am glad I did not have to go help bait the lines and then take them out when it was all over..
As for the boats, well, the wooden one is apparently rotting away at the bottom of the pond, which I now own, so I
guess I own the boat in it. The aluminum one is also mine, by default. Mom and dad have now gone on to the happy
hunting grounds, and the property I grew up on has now been passed down to me.
You would think that with wild experiences with boats like these, I would have given up on water sports, but no.
Outdoor adventure has always been in my blood. I still have the first daypack I ever owned. I think I was about five
when it came into my life.. Don't know where it came from, but I carried it all over the property I mentioned above, and it
is now stored there. All that being said, I used to see photos of Indians in canoes and thought that was just about the
neatest way to travel that I had ever seen. I still think so.
Then while in my second year of college, I met a young man who had lived in the city and had been in the Boy Scouts..
He told me stories of all the fun he and his friends had enjoyed while in the scouts. Sounded like great fun. The part I
remember most about his stories was the one that involved a canoe trip to a place called the Boundary Waters. He
said this was a great place up north on the US and Canada border. It had lots of lakes and a person could travel for
days by water.. Awesome. He told me how they had to plan ahead and make hard choices about what to take because
of limited space.. One shirt change, one half of a towel, short handle tooth brush, etc, etc. Then, if that were not
enough, on the the day the boys were in the parking lot and ready to get on the bus, the leader gather the boys and
the parents around in a circle and again explained that this was not a 100 percent safe thing to do. Harm to the body
and even death could happen on a trip like this. If anyone wanted to change their mind, now was the time. No boys
backed out, and no parents voiced any objections. The trip was a go. How did it go? AWESOME, but the funniest part
was when in the most remote area, where there was supposed to be no other people at the time, the boys decided to
go skinny dipping.. Seems like a fun idea, and was. All was going great until around the bend came several more
canoes, all loaded with Girl Scouts!!!!! Everyone listening to him tell the story got to laughing so hard that nobody
heard how the story ended..
The stories of the adventures of the boy scouts only added fuel to my fire. But, it was not until about 1975, a year after
I got out of college and moved to Missouri, that I was ever in a canoe. It just so happened that at my new job, the first
real job after college, I met a fellow who was a few years older than me who was also big on the outdoor thing. His
name was Dave, and he was a member of the AYH, American Youth Hostel. Somehow in conversation he learned of
my outdoor interests and canoeing particular. He told me that his club might be offering something I would be
interested in, a beginners overnight float trip on the Meramec River, which is a local stream suitable for canoes. I said
yes, I would love to go, and so he helped me get signed up. This would be my first time to ever be in a canoe after all
these years of wanting to try one. I must have joined the group late, and everyone had already been assigned a
partner, except the trip leader, I became the paddle buddy to the leader, a German lady, who was an avid outdoor
person and an instructor for many outdoor sports.
On this trip we were told that all we needed to bring was a sleeping bag!! Not knowing any better, this is all I remember
bringing, except for my swim suit, etc. All the food was going to be provided. The leader and another person had
purchased all the food and extras we would need.. Then, the final bill was tallied up and the expenses spit among the
paddlers. We met at on a give Saturday morning and off we went to the put-in point. There we loaded our canoes, got
checked out and off we went. What I failed to mention is that the club had its own canoes. Not sure where they came
from, but they were on a trailer and someone pulled the trailer to the start point for us. Once on the water, I and other
newbies got a few lessons on paddling, but I seemed to catch on quick and in a mater of minutes, I was in the back of
the canoe being the captain... As I recall we had a good time floating and playing in the water. Then we stopped for
lunch and what a shock at what we encountered at a place where the Meramec Springs water comes into the river.
Beautiful place, but you will get a big surprise here. You will be in the river swimming in warm water and then move just
a few feet away and be in super cold water. Feels just like jumping into a pool of ice water. I and the other newbies did
not know about this, and so we all got to experience the shock of going from warm water to ice cold water while
everything looked to be the same..
We learned that Meramec Springs is more than just spring, it is also the home to a very large trout hatchery. So, we
elected to head up to the hatchery and see what a hatchery does. I am not sure we learned much, but it was beautiful
and we did get to see lots of really large trout. As I recall, there are big signs telling people that is no fishing in the
hatchery area, in case you did not know.. Well, it would seem that one little fellow we saw there was unable to read
because he was running around with a fishing pole and it looked like he intended to do some fishing!!! While we were
watching the fish and him, he came up close to us carrying his fishing pole, and almost before we could say anything,
he had cast his line into one of the containment pools where they kept their largest fish.. In a matter of a few seconds,
one big whopper of a fish grabbed his hook. He started trying to reel it in. We started hollering at him to stop, that what
he was illegal. He kept trying to reel in the fish, so we went closer to him and told him that we were very serious, that if
the game warden came by and caught him, it was all over that him and that he would be taken to jail and might never
get out... He wanted to know how to get the fish off the line. We told him we had no idea and that if we tried to help
him, we might end up in jail also.. The kids face started showing some real terror building up, then all of a sudden he
threw his pole on the ground and took off running as if he was running for his life.. He never looked back.. !!!
We finished our tour of the fish hatchery and headed back down to were the rest of our gang had been waiting for us..
At some point in the afternoon we arrived at a gravel bar which the leader elected was going to be our home for the
evening.. Now what I might not have mentioned is that this was supposed to be more than just a float trip, it was to be
a training trip.. And by golly we learned some stuff... First we had to unload our canoes and drag them up on the gravel
for safe keeping that night.. A bunch of people chose to do some swimming.. I think I was in this group. But finally it
was time for our training.. First lesson was how to use a canoe for a table.. Process; lay canoe on its side and then dig
holes near the tips of each end of the canoe. When we were done, we rolled the canoe upside down, with the turned
up part now pointing down in the hole. This left most of the rest of the canoe on solid ground and fairly stable!! This
canoe was the old aluminum models, so the next step was fairly safe.. We used the bottom it as a table to hold the
Coleman stove and other goodies needed for dinner.. I'm guessing there were about 12 or 14 of us. The leader did a
good job of cooking for us and getting us all fed.. I was impressed, as I recall. Next lesson, turn a canoe into a shelter,
or at least part of a shelter... Process: turn canoe on its side, use a large plastic tarp which we just happen to have
along a couple of paddles to to make a lean-to, or sorts.. With the canoe on its side, we went out about 8 feet from the
open side and dug two holes that we could bury the paddle blades it to make supports for the tarp.. Worked pretty
good.. One end of the tarp was wrapped about half way around the backside of the canoe and tied off underneath.
The rest of the tarp was stretched over the boat paddles and secured to the ground with some rope that the leader had
brought.. I think the leader slept under this thing we built. But, for the rest of us, we discovered later that were in
trouble.. Well, some trouble anyway.. All I had for sleeping was the el-cheapo sleeping bag I had brought.. How I kept it
dry is still a mystery, but did. Not sure what I was thinking was going to do with this bag, but I brought it.. I had no
sleeping pad, or tent, or anything.. I guess I thought there was going to be big tent for all of us or something.. But, no.
When it come time to call it a night and get some sleep, I looked around and saw people just wandering out on the
gravel bar and tossing down something and putting their bag on it and they were done.. I could tell this was not going
to be good.. I finally found a place with smaller rocks and gravel than the other places on the gravel bar.. I started
raking away the larger stones and replacing them with smaller ones.. But it you have ever been on a gravel bar, you
will know that you only dig a couple inches when you will hit wet rocks!!!!! More trouble.. When I looked at what I had
done, it looked as if I were digging a hole to bury a full ground person.. But I did think to pile rocks on one end in such
a manner as to provide me with a pillow!! This was to be my bed..!! I lay my sleep bag in this shallow hole, and in short
order I was in it..
Nope, it was not comfortable, and the wet stuff started seeping through the cotton stuffed bag and made things quite
uncomfortable.. But this is not the end.. During the night, the fog rolled in as it always does on the river, and in no time
flat, the fog or dew as some would call it, had soaked the top of my bag.. Needless to say, it was a long night.. I don't
recall getting any sleep.. I just survived.. I think praying must have worked as we did not get rained on this night.. I did
not have rain gear of any kind and of course no tent, etc. I was very lucky this time. The next day our leader cooked
pancakes on the canoe-table we had built the night before.. Even without sleep, they were pretty good. With breakfast
over, we cleaned up and repacked and were back on the river.. We finished the trip, had good time I think, but I never
wanted to do that over again.. However, I can say, I have floated that section of the river many times since.. Its a great
If all the rest of my float trips were perfect, I could stop here and jump the details of the most recent trip, but no, there
was more. Being young and single, I tried to join in on some of the single adventure that people at work were doing.. I
might should mention here that I was the new kid on the block at work.. The others had done lots of adventures
together and most had the basic camping gear, etc. At least the guys did.. But not me, I had nothing, but a big orange
tarp I had gotten somewhere and a role of rope to make a lean-to.. My first adventure with this group was a canoe trip
on the Current River. We left our cars at the Pultite Campground, rode a shuttle up to Akers Ferry where we started
our float. We floated back to the campground where we left our cars.. The poor lady who agreed to be my partner was
in for a bad night. While everyone else was setting up tents etc., I put up the rope between to trees and proceeded to
create a little shelter for us. I think we had another tarp on the round but still there were no pads, and not protection
from anything except a few things falling out of the trees.. Sometime during the night I felt something crawling on me..
WRONG.. This is not good.. I got real uncomfortable with this crawling thing on me.. I think I found my flashlight and
captured this thing. Turns out it was a wooly worm of some kind.. Don't think they are dangerous, but when you wake
up with one crawling on your face, etc, it is not good!!! Again, we survived the trip, but not without some snags. Now
you would think I would give up this canoe thing by now. Things have not been going well, but no.. There is more. The
second time I went with this group, I was dating one of the ladies in the group. So, she and I are going to be in the
same shelter.. Problem here is that I still have only the orange tarp and a rope.. To make things more embarrassing, I
have narrow tender feet and when we arrived at the place where we were to leave the canoes and walk up to the
springs, Pultite Springs, we had to wade through this cold spring water. It was so cold I could not stand to wade across
the creek in it.. My girlfriend had to load me on her back and carry me across!! Of course I was teased about this
forever.. Plus, she had to carry me back across when we were returning to our canoes. It was just a thing of luck that I
never went on anymore overnight canoe trips. I did go on some day trips, but those were much safer. The story sort of
ends there as far as the canoeing is concerned.. My challenges did not end, just the canoeing.. Seems everything I did
was the hard way.. Either the people I was with were not coaching me properly or something, but I had a lot of
problems trying to do these adventures.. I think that I must have thought that if you keep trying, sooner or later it has to
work.. There are several good stories I should share with you if I get time to add it to this one. But lets get on with one.
I got involved in a flooring business and dropped out of the adventure group for several years. Then in July 1986,
some ten years later, a coworker offered to take me with his son and friends to Colorado, for a backpacking trip. I
jumped on the chance, but again, I had no gear and no clue as to what I should do.. I was luckier here, one friend
loaned me a backpack, I bought a better bag, and then I used the tent and gear which this fellow had. After that trip, I
knew what a real tent was supposed to do..
In 1990, I grew tired of working all the time and gave up the flooring business so I could get back to doing adventures,
only this time I was prepared. Now I had gear and knew how to use it. I did a lot of one day canoe trips, but I also
started doing a lot of overnight trips, but for these I was generally teaching other people how to do this sport and enjoy
it.. I did not take them unless we had all the gear to do it right and have a good time. We had some good times and
some of my students have advance to be teachers themselves.. So, I guess it is true that if you have the goal in mind
when you start, you will get there.
For years as I was doing short floats on the Current River I kept thinking I would love to float the full length of the river
some day. I guess I could have completed this adventure sooner, but since I figured it would take at least two weeks, I
elected to hold off until after I retired.. I retired in 2006, so it was all good to go now. Because of some other
adventures I did, floating the Current River had to wait. After many years of canoeing the Current, I had become close
friends with the lady, Anita, who owns Two Rivers Canoe. In June of 2006 I had to have 2 stents put in my heart. So I
missed this season for canoeing. I don't remember the exact time that it happened the next year, but I got an email from
Anita asking if I was OK and still alive, as she had not heard from me in ages. She did not know about the heart issues.
I explained the ordeal to her. What you should know here is that every time I called her office to rent a canoe for
weekend, and there were lots, I would tell her, or her mom Carol, that I wanted a green plastic canoe for the weekend.
After awhile I became the 'green canoe man”.. When Anita found out I had been away because of the heart issues, she
insisted that I come down, even for just a day, and go canoeing. Finally in the fall of 2007 I was able to go back, but I
went alone and I was not sure the canoe thing would work out because there had been a lot of rain, but we could visit
anyway. What I found when I got there brought tears to my eyes. Anita had two green canoes with my name on the
sides of them. AWESOME. Why two canoes? Anita is one cool lady and she does things like this.. Here is the story,
when she knew I was going to come back and canoe again, she sent one of her employees to the sign shop and had
them make up a set of stick-on letters to put my name on both sides of one of the canoes. When they had the job
finished, they asked her to look at it.. She did and she said “Not Big Enough, Do Another One”!! So off they went back
to the sign shop and got more letters, but this time they were BIG.. Looked really good!! I think she told me that now I
could do the long trip as I had my own canoe to go in.. It did rain while I was there for a few days, but between rains,
Anita and I took the named canoe out a couple of times and had a lot of fun.. She likes to fish, so she teased the little
fellow a bit while we were out!!. But still I could not get geared up to go as I had other work obligations with some
property I now own. But, Anita and I kept talking about getting me on the river for the long trip. I did go out on a few
short overnight trips but not the big one yet, tooooo much rain. The rains just would not stop!! So, I had to pass on
doing the long trip in 2008. The rain just about killed the canoe business on the Current River that year. Then came
2009. I had been planning for a float trip that would take me from the highest put-in point down to the end of the river
which is Pocahontas, Arkansas, about 180 miles downstream. But, something just never work out the way they are
visioned. Will all the things needing attention around me, I finally worked out a deal with Anita to put me on the river in
June of 2009. Good plan. I packed up all my gear, including my food and I sat it in the living room ,and I watched it rain
day after day. I would call Anita and say I need some dry weather.. It did not happen.. Finally in July it looked like there
was going to be less rain, but I had not been able to get any information about what the river and the camping would
be like past the Arkansas border.. I looked on the internet and every other place I could think of, but no help. So, I
finally gave in and asked Anita if her crew could put me in at Baptist Camp and then take me out just below the
Arkansas state line. I could not find a takeout point on the river in this area, but I had found a place on the map where
the river got close enough to the road that I could just make do.. She agreed to the plan. And so around July 10th I
called and asked if she could help me start the trip. She said Monday the 13th would be a good day for her to provide
me a driver to get me to the put-in point. I said, lets do it. I got up real early Monday morning, loaded all my stuff and
left here about 6 AM. Stopped for coffee at my favorite gas station, QT, then headed out. I arrived at the office at
around 9:30 AM., and, this is where the story starts!
Click here to start the adventure....
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