A Memorable Event…..



It was Labor Day 2002, Gerri and the kids and I prepared for a weekend in the country with my Dad and Lucy. You could tell the excitement from my two oldest boys, Daniel and Michael. We were looking forward to a weekend of relaxing and getting to know one another again, it was a chance for me and my father to bond in a way that we had never before.

Well it started in a normal way I was yelling at the boys to hurry up; Gerri was taking what seemed like to me the longest time in history to get ready. One wonders what women do to themselves that takes 45 minutes to get done. With that said we all climbed into the dodge and wheeled our way to our on the road ritual, McDonalds big breakfast. What follows was the first glitch in a row of many.

We got to the restraunt and I got everyone together to see what they wanted. I had asked our youngest, Dylan what he wanted? As I turned to order our food I heard Dylan start to crying, I looked around and saw that he had fallen, once again out of a million times before, Gerri walked over to get him and see if he was alright, when she frantically asked me to get some paper towels. I walked over to Gerri and Dylan had fallen against the metal toy display and split his head wide open, I turned to the girl at the register and asked her for a wet towel. At that point the manager walked over to me with a cold wet towel. Gerri called Dylan’s doctors office to see if they would see him and they said to bring him over right away. When we got there the doctor wasn’t on call until 9:00 am.  So we had to drive like a bat outta hell to Kosairs Children Hospital downtown Louisville, around a ten minute drive. The best thing about the whole drive was Dylan laughing the whole time. Well to make a long story short, he got eight stitches in the middle of his forehead. We spent several hours in limbo, which most people call the emergency room.

Well we finally get on the road for the wide open spaces of southern Missouri. It was an uneventful trip down to my dads, and low and behold we made it, and this time without getting lost. Hell I even found the house on the first try. Wait let me tell you this we hadn’t stopped for gas or a bathroom break for about four hours so the boys, Tiffany and Gerri and I were floating. So what did Dad do, I stopped at the front of the driveway, stepped out to the side of the driveway and peed all over the toe of my boot. Well of course the little hooligans thought that this was the funniest thing that had ever happened. So I had to endure fifteen minutes of good natured ribbing from the boys. We pulled up to the house and there was Grandpa and Grandma, the way Dylan was hollering you would have thought he missed them (ha,ha).

We finally get settled in and Dad dropped the bomb on the boys, he said that since we got in so late that the best bet for us to go kayaking would be on Monday, so that we would have the whole day. Well the boys were a little disappointed but hell there were pigs that needed taken care of. So off they go in search of pigs and other farm like animals such as cows, lamas, dogs the bull and of course Chipper the ever faithful but skittish dog.

Sunday rolled around and with little or no pulling of teeth the family and I get ready for church. As we head out the door I yell whose riding with Granddad? Well hell that got rid of all the kids but one. So Gerri and I could relax and make fun of Granddad who looked like from our vantage point that he had eight arms. All I know is I must have been one hell of a good boy when I was Dylan’s age (snicker). We got through church with a little discomfort on the part of Dylan but I think with a little food and a good beverage he will be all right. And as the ever popular Michael Jones once said,” What we gotta go to church twice in one day?” That’s all I have to say on that subject.

Well the day had finally come. And well if we didn’t get an early start we headed out early enough for me. Hell I was grateful for the chance to sleep in. As Granddad was putting the finishing touches on the grub box the boys and I headed out to the garage to load up the van with the canoe and the three kayaks. And damn if that wasn’t convenient Granddad had already pulled the van around to the door of the garage so we didn’t have tom trudge the things across the lawn. See boys that is what a little fore thought will get you, less stress on the back. But wait that would come later in the trip. Granddad hollered for one of us to grab the grub box, so instead of wasting time I grabbed it and stowed it in the passenger seat of the van. Granddad was a little skeptical about all the kayaks fitting in the van, but guess what they fit like a glove. What with all the bumping and bouncing we didn’t lose one kayak and we even managed to keep the kids in the back of the van.

As we passed over the Zalma Bridge the boys were just about out of their skin with anticipation, and well so was I to be exact. We pulled up to unload the boats but the way was blocked with limbs and debris. We had to hoof the boats down to the river and set them on the edge of the bank. And here is where the story gets really interesting. Just when we get the boats down to the river Grandma, Gerri and the babies came up and of course we had to take the obligatory pictures. I have some to find out that the pictures in life tell one hell of a story too. We get the boats loaded and we kiss the women folk goodbye and head to our respective boats. Before we launch Granddad says the prayer, I don’t remember the exact wording but I do remember this,” Lord, please make this a memorable event.”

We hit our first snag when I got turned around backwards and was going downstream in the upstream position. As soon as I got myself turned around the first thing I saw was Michael was stuck on a log in a shallow fast moving current. I realized if I didn’t get him out quickly we would have our first accident, as I to him I noticed that the current was at his boat and trying to suck him under the log he was caught on. I had to lodge my boat on the tree next to Michael, get out of my boat ad push Michael and his boat off the log he was caught on. Well that was ok I got him out of his jamb. I then turn my attention to his stepbrother Daniel, who as luck would have it was stuck on the same log. And if that weren’t bad enough I look around at Granddad and guess who is chuckling at the inexperienced ones. Well we would have our turn to laugh too. We finally get going and we were getting the hang of moving the kayaks around the stream, I have to say that by the time I got the boys out of the first snag I was tired to say the least. We had some clear paddling for the next thirty minutes or so when we hit our next snag. I have to say the boys were doing a better job of handling the kayaks than I was. I was the first one to get a rip (side note right here the kayaks are made of wood frames covered with waterproof canvas). I beached the kayak on a fairly large sandbar and waited for Granddad to mosey on up, I think that out of all of us he was the one truly enjoying himself (at our expense of course). When Granddad got up to me we flipped the kayak over to inspect the canvas hull. We found one rip in the bow of the boat, we had Michael take off his shirt, and it was the driest one. Granddad wiped off the spot where the tear was and he applied the most versatile tool in the tool box, duct tape. Since this was monument us occasion he broke out the camera and dubbed the photo “our first hole”. We waited a little while for the patch to set up and did some swimming. To say the water was cold was an understatement, but I had to admit that once you got fully wet it wasn’t so bad. Well Granddad was having a little trouble with cold rock nipples. But he finally warmed up, caution stay up river from the boys they were making warm currents in the river. With the boat patched and back in the river we headed out again. Well I was finally getting the hang of this damn thing by this time, and we made some really great head way. Other than stopping a half dozen times to get Michael and Daniel out of snags. I finally took a page out of Granddads book and started to pace myself and not keep up with the young ones in the front. We stopped about 11:00 to fix some lunch and to do some gabbing and swimming.  Granddad and I set about finding some kindling and some fire wood so that we could cook some lunch. The boys were unloading the grub box and generally goofing off. Granddad took off in one direction to look for some dead leaves and I left in the other. I looked over at the boys who were swimming when I noticed a dead tree hanging over the river. I hollered at Granddad and waded in to grab a hand full of dead stuff. I yelled to the boys to give me a hand. We took the leaves and some small twigs up to Granddad and damned if he didn’t have a roaring fire started in seconds. We then sent the boys off to get their hotdog sticks so they could get some groceries down their gullets. Well when you send two green boys out to get hotdog sticks naturally they are going to come back with dead dry sticks. So Granddad took them by the hand and showed them the proper procedure for acquiring hotdog sticks. The key to getting the best damn hotdog in three states is starting with a green, live stick. Well let me explain that one to you. If you have a dead, dry stick and you put it in the fire what do you think will happen to the stick? It burns and drops your hotdog in the fire and well it is up to you to rescue your dog and eat it. One of the most important procedures is how you put your hotdog on the stick, now for us experienced stick cookers we know that you put the stick through the end and feed it through the other end, making it perpendicular to the stick so you don’t lose your hotdog. Well enough about our lunch except for one thing I will add that is not in the original story, really dad trying to cook pork chops on sticks over an open fire, only works if you have time and patience which we both had very little of. Lets head on down the river to our next snag.

Well to say I was the only to get a tear would be the correct thing to say. As I watched Michael and Daniel get snagged on the same log, I took to the weeds to get through. Well that helped me not get hung up but I still got a hole in my boat. The whole thing about kayaks of the canvas variety is that you have to keep at least six inches of water between your boat bottom and the bottom of the river. As we patched the bottom of my boat for a second time we had a pop and took a little swim in the bend of the river.

This is where I think I fell asleep, we hit some beautiful scenery and I just kind of laid back in the kayak and let myself wander in my own mind. The next couple of hours were much like the first part of the day, stopping and pulling not only myself but the boys out of snags and stopping to rest our weary arms, you know if my memory serves me well Granddad never once had a problem, not until we hit the first rapids. I was the first one to the rapids and to be sure they looked exciting, not real big but the first rapids I have shot in years. Well I shouted to Michael I was going for it and plunged ahead. It was bumpy and it bounced me around for a minute, that was when I het the biggest rock I had ever seen, at that point all I could think was “OUCH now my but hurts”. Well actually that was the first of my problems (remember when I told you they were canvas kayaks, not really made for rapids) as I got to the bottom of the rapids it was smooth sailing all the way to the bottom of the riverbed. Well they say a captain has to go down with his ship, well I had to tread water before I could get to the bottom of the river bed. Michael gave me the best description of what actually happened. He said I was paddling like crazy to get through the rapids and then I kept paddling as I left the rapids but it seemed like the harder I paddled the lower in the water I would go. Well it seems I am the bearer of bad mojo on this trip. As angry as I am about losing my boat I think we will skip the part of the story where I completely destroy my boat in what seemed like the only thing to do. Dad at this point in the story I would like to say that if I had the whole trip to do over again I would not change a damn thing including the scary parts. And also I would or could not think of another person that I would like to have had with me and the boys, they are my entire life and I would trust them to no one else but you. I have to tell you I still don’t know how Daniel sunk his boat or even where it happened. If you figure that one out I will be forever in your debt. Well at this point I hopped into the boat with Granddad and we couldn’t get Daniel in with us so we had him float for awhile beside the boat until we could get to a shallow place where he could jump in. I am kind of confused at this point did I dump us in the river before or after Daniel got in the boat. I am not even sure I want to mention me slipping off the grub box and right back into the river once we got ourselves turned back over from the first time. That’s when I forced Michael out if his boat and made him ride with Granddad. If I said I was embarrassed would you believe me? And no Michael and Daniel it wasn’t funny.

It got dark I was in front of dad and the boys trying my damnedest not to get hung up. I kept calling directions back to dad, the darker it got the harder it got to see I had to slow down and pick my way from shore to shore. It got to the point where dad and I were side by side and we could barely see each other. That’s when we hit the final snag, dad was caught up on a tree that was straddling the river and with him being the only one paddling it was hard to get over the snag. I believe if I weren’t for dad we would not made it back in one piece. He got hung up on that damned tree and had to power his way across. Well I thought that I would get a running start at the snag and not being heavier than dad and the boys I would go right across, well they forgot to tell me to take an immediate left after you get over the damn tree because there was another right in front of it. It punched three big holes in the front of the last kayak.

Well I was riding in the same boat with all the rest. We had our life in our own hands and the boys, Granddad and my eyes. I was finding our way in the pitch black southern Missouri sky; if we had a sliver of moon we would have been ok. Well God didn’t want to seem to comply, we found our way back by a two foot sliver of sky reflected in the river surface and we kept it between the banks by the glow worms that were on the bank. At this point we were tired scared and ready to get to the house. If I said or did anything at this point that hurt anyone I will say I am sorry. I was extremely stressed out and more than a little concerned for all of us, and I was scared too. The most beautiful sight of the night was the sight of the lights at the church in Zalma. When we started to hit the rapids at the end the last thought that went through my head was” Gerri is going to have my ass in a sling.”

This is one of the fondest memories I have of my late father, he kept his calm when I know he was boiling mad, I am sure it was a combination of things but now the less he held it together for the rest of us. Rest in Peace Richard Allen Kline.

With much gratitude and devotion,

Dan Kline

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