Things Can ALWAYS Get Worse
One more adventure by the RRR and Youngest Son on the long trip down the Des Moines River follows:
We were floating down towards Rutland, Iowa and the river began widening and slowing. As we came around a bend we began to hear a dull roaring up ahead. As happened almost every day on that trip, rain was threatening. The river ahead of us got much wider we saw a dark line all the way across it with a brick building on the port side and mist rolling up from the line. “Dam!” I shouted. (NOT “damn”). The dam at Rutland was high headed with a forty foot drop behind it and the slowing of the current changed and we were being pulled right for it. Youngest Son had the oars. We had been floating forward just using them to steer. Now he jumped around facing the stern and began pulling for the building at the port side with all his might as I guided.
Wouldn't it be awful, I thought, if there were also a spillway on the far left side of that building? And there was! The building was the old powerhouse and had its own intake from the river. I shouted the news to him and he angled the boat further and pulled even harder. We just made it. I jumped out and tied to a tree and we stood looking at the disaster that had almost befallen us. Had we gone right instead of left or not gotten past the powerhouse inlet we would have been swept over into the boiling cauldron below.
As we picked a path around the dam to portage the boat and gear it began to rain. Thunder and lightening followed. We took the gear first and the boat last. We were both soaked and shivering almost immediately. As we made the last trip carrying the boat, it suddenly began to hail marble sized hail stones. We were getting bruised and pounded. Youngest Son shouted back to me over his shoulder, “Relax Dad, nothing worse than this can happen!”
Lightening instantly struck a tree 20 feet from where we were carrying the aluminum boat. The whole world turn brilliant pink for an instant and the roar of the thunder was a physical, mind numbing presence. We stood dumbfounded, our ears ringing.
“Kid,” I yelled, “don't you EVER say that again!”
It really, really, happened.