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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Day Pearl Damn-Near Drownded

Late-summer:  I’m 14, and my family and various friends and relatives have packed ice, beer, pop, and varied sandwiches into coolers.  We’ve rented inner-tubes and are stepping into the Rum River to float from one location to another. 

That’s right.  We’re floating down the Rum River.

Why?  No one knows, really.  The adults lash the beer cooler to their inner tubes, the children scatter about as the current takes them, and, barring complications, you have a whole day in the sun, butts bitten by bugs and large curious fish, pleasantly inebriated adults giving you money for treats later.

I have to assume, looking back, that sunscreen had yet to be invented, because what came two days after the Rum River Float was always the Peeling of Dad’s Legs, appendages that only saw the sun on this one day out of the year.  My sister and I sat at his feet, applying vinegar and competing to see who could coax the largest sheet of skin from his distressed shins.

It was a hard, mean existence.

And yet, it was a tradition.

The Rum is a rather shallow, slow-moving river; but that year, there had been a heavy rain the night before our trip.  The river was undoubtedly higher – and faster – than usual.

Not that this would stop us.

The adults lashed their tubes together, the “beer tube” in the center, the kids divided into various contingencies primarily based on age, and we set off. 

Did I mention that the river was a little high?

We managed to keep the tubes in the center of the river for most of the day, but eventually one loses track of such things, and I found myself drifting towards the bank – and perhaps for the first time truly noticed how many trees were in the water, how many of them had fallen over, their limbs reaching into the water.

I find myself pushed into a toppled tree. 

The water swirls, irritated with my blunder; and I am flipped over, caught under branches who promise to never let me go.

The inner tube is now around my waist.  Upside down, I find I can’t get out of it.  The tree branches hold me under, scratch at my face and my arms as I fight.  I am stuck in the branches, and it occurs to me, as my lungs start to burn and things began to go black, that I am going to die in the river. 

I am pulled up and out by my hair.  It is my father.  The inner tube pops to the surface, I pop to the surface, and I take a hysterical and searing lung-full of air.

My eyes open to my friend Tammy bobbing violently in her tube, one hand clutching a Diet Rite , the other gripping the end of my Dad’s t-shirt. 

“You almost drownded!” She looks excited about this.

There would be time later for reflection. 

“Jesus Martha, Pearl!” Dad shouts, “Get swimming!  We don’t return that inner tube and they’ll charge us $15!”

The other kids get a big kick out of it, of course, as I launch myself down the swollen river in pursuit of the inner tube that had just conspired to kill me, and I secretly vow, in the way that only a teenage girl can, that I will have nothing to do with the upcoming Peeling of Dad’s Legs. 

He can just peel those things himself.

And that was The Day Pearl Damn-Near Drownded. 


vanilla said...

Oh, Pearl, we are all so pleased that you did not drownd.

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Jesus Martha, Pearl! Get that inner tube!
Oh, how I love tubing. That-there is redneck Nirvana.

Should Fish More said...

Those trees overhanging or in the river are called 'sweepers', and have caused drownings every year. They are common here in Montana every spring during runoff.

You were lucky.

Anonymous said...

thank goodness you didn't 'drownded'...life wouldn't be the same without you.

Pearl said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad I didn't drownd either. :-)

Sweepers. Hadn't heard that before, but I can see it. Being trapped under one stands out as one of my scariest memories -- so far.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari Om
Crikey Pearlie; if this were not so damn near hilarious, it could've been tragic....&*o YAM xx

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

That brought back memories of our families and friends riding tubes down the Delaware. The first year there were no rules about bringing alcohol, but the following year, because of a drowning, the "no alcohol" law was put in place. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy to make people think.

Going down the river in a tube is such a wonderful summertime thing to do and I am sorry you had such a bad experience.

Geo. said...

That was scary, Pearl. You nearly left earth prematurely and $15 arrears. Glad you're here!

jenny_o said...

We used to use inner tubes as water toys at the nearby little river and one day I did the same thing to myself as that tree did to you. Somehow I got myself righted; I'm not sure how, and no one else noticed what had happened. I don't like to remember it - brrrr.

I'm glad your Dad had his wits about him! And, vinegar? Really? Wouldn't that sting a little? :)

Buttons said...

I am so glad you Damn-Near didn't Drownded. Pearl. Hug B

Elephant's Child said...

Big smiles. Love your father's priorities. First the Pearl, then the inner-tube. And I am quite sure you relented and did peel his legs.

Sioux said...

Your account of your little "competition"--trying to get the largest "sheet" of dead skin off your dad--was hilarious.

(I used to do the same thing to myself.)

Gigi said...

Oh Pearl! The world would have been a totally different place if you had drownded. A really sad and dark place.

Jono said...

The river was high and so were most of the humans. Glad you didn't drownded, especially owing $15. "And she never found her father appealing from that day on."

Susan Williams said...

Good Gravy LaRoux!!!
Parents used to be so much more nonchalant, yes?
That sounds VERY scary, indeed.
Hope your dad got his deposit back.

River said...

So glad the adults were keeping an eye on the kids in spite of "pleasant inebriation". The world would be a sorrier place without Pearl in it.

Rose L said...

I nearly drownded, too, when I was about 7 or 8 yrs old. I was playing around a pool pushing an inner tube with a ball in it back and forth across the pool. I pushed it too hard once and it bounced off the wall and began drifting away. I leaned over, stretching my arms, a little further, almost there...splash! I fell into the deep end. I did not know how to swim. I remember looking up through the water and could see the sun all warped though the water. The sound the water made in my ears is what haunts me the most. As I stared up through the water I suddenly saw a figure wiggling like a snake without being in the water yet. Then it was there grabbing me...it was my dad. I came out coughing and sputtering. My dad, my heero, scolded me for having fallen in as he had told me to stay away from the edge.

Saimi said...

Martha Pearl? Ok if that's your real name I love it, if it's not, I still love it!

sage said...

I found myself wondering why the adults were drinking watered-down beer when there was rum. This river must flow through the Big Rock Candy Mountains (adult version) where whiskey flows from springs.

Glad you're okay. When in college, I was caught upside down in a kayak under a tree in the Haw River and because of the branches couldn't roll and thought for sure I was dead. I survived, but it was winter and the only thing bothering me more than the lack of air was how cold the water was on my face (I was wearing a wetsuit).

Val S said...

I bet your dad was even more scared than you, but real men had to hide their emotions in those days. What a hero! I hope you still helped peel his legs.

Daisy said...

I'm with those who feel the world would be a much poorer place without you Pearl.

tubing is popular here on the Somass River. And there are fatalities and near fatalities.... and otters that nip at feet and butts.

Daisy said...

Oh my! That scared me. I'm not a strong swimmer at all. Glad your Dad was there to pull you out. :)

Diane Tolley said...

Let's agree not to add anything scarier, okay?
Yeah, my Dad's unseasoned legs would rival your dad's. He was wearing *gasp* shorts and his neighbour asked him if he was riding a chicken!