We spent many summer vacations traveling by camper around the west coast with our family, aunts, uncles and cousins. These wonderful opportunities to be with our cousins have provided many of the great and amazing memories of my childhood. My cousins and us were very close friends growing up, that closeness can still be felt today at those rare moments when we are all together.
One such memorable trip was to Flaming Gorge and river rafting the Green River. River rafting can be such an exhilarating experience, especially for young children. We would launch the raft below the Flaming Gorge Dam and ride the current, with its many rapids for seven miles, all the way to the first stop at little hole. We would unload the raft, load it on top of the truck and do it again.
Oh wow us kids had fun! We would fish along the banks of river as we anxiously awaited for our turns to ride. These were wonderful times we spent together in nature and great opportunities to build friendships.
My dad was a avid fisherman so we would also fish along the river as we gently floated along. My dad fished this river often and knew all the best fishing holes to stop in along the way. We would pull off to the shore and eat our sandwiches and have ice cold soda. Afterwards we would all head to the campsite where we would eat dinner in front of a roaring fire, roast hot dogs and marshmallows.
One trip down the river was uniquely memorable and extremely different for us than all the others. I remember I had to have been about ten years old. We floated gently along river in one of my dad’s fishing holes, when a couple of the fishing lines became tangled together. I can still vividly see my father as he sat on the back edge of the raft working to untangle the lines. He was wearing his faded blue fishing hat, his tan fishing vest and his legs crossed in front of him at the ankles as he worked to untangle the mess we boys had made with our fishing poles.
My dad, being the expert fisherman he was, quickly untangled the lines, replace the hooks and bait on the first pole and handed it back to us. He then went to work on the next pole, replacing the hook and the bait. While we floated gently along the river, the raft suddenly dropped a couple feet as we went over the first of many rapids ahead of us. My dad had his head down of course while working on the fishing pole and was unaware that we had gotten to the next set of rapids, as minor as they were.
As the raft dropped out from below we watched in panic as my father fell over backwards out of the raft. Everything moved in slow motion as I watched my dad first reach for his precious fishing hat and then the fishing pole. He gathered himself and prepared to ride the rapids with his hat in one hand and the fishing pole in the other. There was no sign of panic in his face whatsoever.
I turned to watch the rapids and in wonderment watched my cousin Deb, who must have been about sixteen at the time as she paddled her little heart away attempting to reach my dad. The amazing thing is that as fast as my cousin Deb was paddling you would have thought that she would have defied the current of the river and moved us upstream faster than any propeller could have. Sadly, Deb forgot one little thing as she paddled her little heart out…… she forgot that the oar had to go into the water in order to be of any benefit.
My dad could see her paddling and missing the water. He laughed as he caught up to the raft and held on. Safely we made it through the small rapids and over to the shore where my dad made certain we were all safe and then climbed back in to complete our journey.
This image of my dear cousin as she frantically tried to reach her Uncle Dave and save him while missing the water all together has stayed with us over the decades. It’s a memory I treasure, not only for the humor, but for the amazing times with my mom and dad, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins and the love for the outdoors I developed as a result of these amazing trips.