|White Water Rafting|
“You know I’m certified in white water rescue, right?” Jordan asked the group. It was said in an off-hand manner in hopes that it would not sound like a brag, but his eyes were bright with his own admiration of the achievement.
There were 5 of us lounging in the living room, scattered across couch and floor in an easy manner. Jordan and I were on opposite ends of the room, both on the floor. Wes, Meade, Jessica and her husband were reclining on the couches.
“You know that Wes saved my life once in a white water rescue, right?” piped up Jessica.
Wes ducked his head, hiding his face from full view, in pretense of examining his cuff. He was not a braggart, and he got no pleasure from the retelling of this tale. The others in the room straightened up, faces eager for the story.
“We went on a white water rafting trip. Wes was in one of the other boats when my raft hit a patch of rapids. It flipped me out. The water kept sucking me under – I couldn’t get a breath. I fought with everything I had in me but I couldn’t make it to the surface. Slowly I realized that I wasn’t going to make it. ‘Okay, God, I give up,’ I said. ‘Take me home.’ I knew I was going to die, so I just relaxed and let go. And I immediately surfaced, and I looked up into Wes’s terrified face as he grabbed the back of my life preserver and pulled me out. Wes saved my life,” Jessica recounted, snuggling in closer to her husband as she rehearsed the scary part. Her husband wrapped his arm around her and kissed the top of her head as she finished. I caught the grateful look that he sent in Wes’ direction.
“You guys know that you are supposed to keep your feet downstream of you, so you can protect your head from rocks. And you keep your feet at the surface, too, so they don’t get caught in the river bottom. Right?” Jordan asked anxiously.
Most of the heads around the room nodded, although a few shoulders shrugged.
Jordan leaned back with a satisfied air and closed his eyes halfway, as if recalling his most pleasant memories. “Man, I love white water rafting!” he said. “It’s just so exciting!”
Wes shrugged and examined his cuffs again, but the rest of us listened attentively. So Jordan continued.
“I worked for a while as a guide on some of the rapids. It was awesome. You know there is this perfect level of water that I love. If you get too little water, it’s not enough to be exciting. But if you get too much, it washes out some of the ripples that you would get otherwise. But there is this perfect level, right in between, when you get the best of everything,” Jordan explained. He waved his hands exhuberantly as if the idea of white water rafting filled him with an extra dose of energy.
“Never made much sense to me,” Wes mumbled.
“What doesn’t make sense?” Jordan asked, settling into a semi-reclining position on the floor and somehow still bubbling with energy, even in his repose.
“White water rafting. Why would you want to do something that could kill you? I’ve only been twice and I decided to never go again. I nearly died both times I went. I just don’t get the fun of an activity like that,” Wes said, shaking his head. Then he modified his voice, mimicking a rafting instructor, “If you get flipped overboard and you swim to the right, you will die under that rock. If you swim straight to the left, you will die in that eddy. But if you swim just north of the eddy, then you might make it.” Wes shook his head again, mourning the folly of such daredevil behavior.
“Aw, no, man…that’s the fun of it!” Jordan exclaimed. “That’s what makes it so exciting!”
Jordan pushed himself onto his knees and gestured dramatically with his hands. “You know one of the things I love to do? High side! You know – when the boat starts to tip, the guide yells ‘High Side!’ and everybody jumps to the high side of the boat to keep it from flipping over. It’s awesome. Well, one time I was riding down this really bad set of rapids…” (You could tell from the way his eyes lit up that a “really bad set of rapids” was his sheer delight) “…called Hell’s Canyon. And there’s one really bad whirlpool in Hell’s Canyon called ‘Hell Hole.’ Well, we had gone the whole way without doing High Side until we got to Hell Hole. Well, then the raft started to tip to the right, and the guide yelled ‘High Side’. I was so excited! I had been waiting the whole time for a High Side. I screamed a warwhoop and dove toward my left. The only problem was that I was already on the left side of the boat. I was on the high side. So I just leapt off the raft straight into Hell Hole!” Here Jordan stopped to laugh heartily. “Thankfully, I was still holding my paddle and was able to work my way out. That’s one of the rules, you know: Always Hold On To Your Paddle,” Jordan told us, finishing his tale. “Inexperienced people don’t realize how important that is. The trick of getting a raft through a rapid like Hells Canyon is to keep paddling. Inexperienced people drop their paddles and hang onto the raft for dear life, and they’ll end up in trouble that way.”
“Well, I’ve never fallen out of a raft during white water rapids before,” drawled Meade. Meade had a low, nasally voice, and he never seemed to be in a hurry when he talked. “But that’s because I always drop my paddle and hang onto the raft. One time, I made somebody else fall out.” Meade straightened up a little, and a flicker of amusement shot across his face. “We hit some rapids and I let go of my paddle so I could grab the boat. And the paddle flew into the air and knocked the guy behind me clean out of the boat.” Meade clearly thought this was very funny. I, on the other hand, was making a mental note to never go rafting with Meade. If I had to go rafting, I would rather go with a crazy guy who knew what he was doing – like Jordan.
Jordan stared rather blankly at Meade’s poor rafting manners. After a second, he laughed, having decided that Meade’s story must have been a joke. Then he smiled again with his eyes half-closed before launching into another hair-raising story of his exciting Class 5 adventures.
Jessica snuggled closer to her husband and listened with polite interest. I leaned forward eagerly, hoping to catch every word of his stories. Meade reclined in his chair, storing up the tales for future use without appearing to do so. And Wes just shook his head again and shifted positions to examine his other cuff.