Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Danger at the Y

Several years ago, I took a drift on a river. And what happened that day, to myself and the friend with me, remains a mystery.

We have parted ways now.  We talked about the experience secretly, in bits and pieces, and gradually let it go.  But I'll never return to that section of the N. Santiam.  Never.

It started as an invitation.  My friend had a raft and wanted to drift a river and her friends had cancelled out.  She knew I rarely got to do anything fun.  So she invited me.  We headed out buying some drinks at a grocery store.  We left my car in Jefferson and drove hers to our put in point, at the Green River Bridge.

There were people playing in the water there.  It's also a big party location, the drinkers and chronically unemployed young who have nothing but time and lots of alcohol---many of those types were there, that day.  A few had rafts and were also setting out.

We blew up her raft using a pump she had that plugged into the car's lighter jack.  It was fast!  Off we went.

That was about the only normal part of the day, the first hour on the river, which was slow and lazy and running shallow.  We beached for lunch.

But something was askew.  Time was missing.  It was suddenly late afternoon.  We could not figure out where all the hours had gone.  It's not a long float.  The river was slow, sure, but not that slow.  I become uneasy, because I could not for the life of me recall what could have happened to all that lost time.

We came to the Y, where the S. Santiam joins the North fork.  As we approached, we saw something strange, in the middle of the river, just past the joining of the two.  It was like a spout of water shooting straight up, maybe three feet, like a hose was forcing water up.  Then it would subside, then spout again.  We stared transfixed.  We could not manuever that clumsy cheap raft to get over to look.  There was a guy with very manueverable boat behind us.  We yelled at him, and pointed at the water spout, asked him to go see what that was.

He went over, then rowed fast away.  He seemed shook up.  We said "What was it?"  He said, "There's a guy down there, with a scooter and like a rebreather on."  Then the man in the boat took off.  We looked at each other.  "What?"  That made no sense at all.  We searched both banks, up and down, for a car or anything that a diver would come from.  WTF.  We were now jumpy and paddling fast.  We just wanted off this damn river.

We finally got to the boat ramp.  It was dark and we could not understand what had happened to the hours and hours since we'd left Green River.

We drive back up to retrieve her car.  There, left leaning against the fence at the start of the gravel road down to the river, was a huge piece of bare plywood.  On it, painted in huge black letters, was written out,

What?  We looked at each other.  Where'd that come from?  Who wrote it out?  Where'd they get the plywood?  Why did they go to all that trouble?  Was it the guy in the boat we asked to go check out the water spout?  Did that spook him out enough to make that sign?

Or was there another reason? Who else lost time on the river that day?

We didn't really tell anyone else about the day.  We didn't know what had happened.  I still don't know. I think it was something dumped into the water, some pollutant, that affected us.   Was there really a diver with a scooter and a rebreather there where that water spout was going on?  Who made that sign and why?

I avoid that section of river now.

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