Whitewater Cowboy

By Jonesy of Jackson Hole, aka Maury JonesMauryJones

The grandkids called me up one day and said “to the Snake River” they was headed to play. They urged me get off my pony and come, to ride on their raft and have lots of fun. Well, I been workin’ quite hard, I could use a break. Fixin’ fence and buckin’ hay are making my back ache. So against my better judgement I decided to go. “Come on, Grandpa Jonesy!” they pleaded. I couldn’t say no.

We met at West Table Creek, according to plan. They was wearin’ swim togs and had a beautiful tan. My western shirt and jeans looked quite out of place. My cowboy hat and boots they said they’d replace. In the trunk of their car they found t-shirt and cap, which sort of fit, but on me looked like crap. But try as they might they couldn’t find shorts, but it was plain my Wranglers was quite out of sorts. So I took out my Leatherman and cut above the knees. My lilly-white legs could now feel the breeze. And what a sight they were, having never seen sun, the color of Mayonaise, the grandkids poked fun. I insisted my boots would have to stay on, a mighty tough argument but I finally won. So now somewhat decked out in rafting attire I was ready for anything, no matter how dire.

They unloaded the raft, “It ain’t got no saddle. Where do I sit?” They said I must straddle one of the “chambers”, a big tube that goes ‘round, “It don’t look safe to me. What if I drown?” “It’s perfectly safe”, they lied through their teeth. “Just wear this life jacket and you won’t go beneath the water if you should happen to fall out of the raft. I’m beginning to think these kids are plumb daft.

They hand me a stick instead of some reins, I’d quit right now if I had any brains. The flat end of this stick is meant to propel this raft down the river,… or straight down to hell. They shove off from the bank, the feeling is weird, it’s spongy and pitchy, just as I feared. They teach me to row this goldarned contraption, “I think I’ve got it, I’m ready for action!”

The first bouncy wave gives me quite a start. My bowels contract and let out a fart. The kids yell “Grandpa!”, but I shift the blame; “This…this tube sprung a leak.” My excuse, rather lame.

Through Station Creek rapid and Blue Trail wave, floating past Dragon’s Back, I try to be brave. Then a mile long calm stretch they call Gauging Straits. My heart finally rests from its palpitates. They warn me what’s comin’ up around the bend, the Giant Kahuna, a wave that will send you straight to the bottom if you don’t hit it right. Their words of caution give me a fright.

I have a death grip on my flattened-end stick, the big one is comin’, this shore ain’t no crick. The wave’s frothy top is towering above, it slams into the raft and gives me a shove. Over I go into the deep, all I can think of is “Blinkety-blank-bleep!” I’m holdin’ my breath and my paddle, too. I’m glad I donated to Search and Rescue.

When I finally surface I’m gasping for air, and I see that the raft is no longer there. I feel a great panic welling inside, “Drowned in a river” they’ll say how I died. Then from somewhere behind a hand grabs my collar, “I’ve got him now!” I hear grandson holler. They drag me aboard that murderous boat, I’m coughing up water from deep in my throat. They have a good laugh at Grandpa’s expense, you’d think they’d want to make recompense. But no time to lecture, the river is flowing, on toward “Lunch Counter Rapid” we’re going.

I hardly get set before those monstrous waves pound us, “DAD-BLAMED THIS RIVER!” I fervently cuss. Over I go, again, in the water, “I’m going to die!” like a lamb to the slaughter. This time when I surface I’m madder than hell, this rubber bronc has tossed me—twice—before the 8 second bell. It’s been years since I was piled by a renegade horse, now this rubber cayuse has cause for remorse. For I vow my revenge on this raft and this river, I feel resentment clear down to my liver.

I “Cowboy Up” as I climb back in, and straddle that tube with an evil grin. “California Curl” wave is just dead ahead, I swing my flat stick and chop off its head. I yell and I scream at each passing wave, my anger and shame has made me real brave. I jab each white wave with the stick in my hand, and yell “Curse you Moby Dick, you’ll soon wear my brand!” I get madder and madder as the raft churns along, hate fills my heart for doin’ me wrong.

Only one big rapid left and it’s roaring ahead, “Gates of Paradise” has claimed its share of the dead. This rubber bronc is buckin’ like out of the chutes, I’m grippin’ its sides with my cowboy boots. We hit the last wave with hammerin’ force, this rubber bronc rears just like a mean horse. I rare back my heels as the beast starts to lunge, and drive them hard into its tube as we plunge.

A loud pop is heard, the rubber bronc goes down, and leaves us all a’swimmin’ around. One piece of advice a cowboy should take, “Don’t wear yer spurs when you whitewater the Snake.”

“Remember, life is always better when viewed from between the ears of a horse.”

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