It was hot and sticky, Minnesota in mid-July. Our two Alpacka rafts and oar-rig raft were beached on the shoreline. We were camped at the tip of a small island in the Cannon River, which snakes through the Southeast part of the state, eventually joining the Mississippi.
My oldest son, and our paddling partner Brooks were discussing hiphop and horror movies. It was almost story time for my seven-year-old and Brooks’ three-year-old daughter had long since faded towards dreamland in their tent.
“Does anyone wanna bet on a storm tonight?” I asked.
Our storm radar agreed with Brooks and the boys, but I had sensed something more was lurking beyond the clear sky. I wagered with the group that around 3am a system would move through; however, this intuition didn’t stop me from climbing into my tent sans fly. We also never settled on what was in the pot for the winner.
I awoke to a roaring gust of wind and my tent folding like a standing wave. Another gust. Then another. Dry lightning. Next to me Charley didn’t stir. I jumped out of the tent to get the fly on. I ran down to the river’s edge to gather more driftwood for stakes.
When I got to the shoreline, I knew immediately that the wind had stolen something, but it took me a minute to realize exactly what.
Brooks was up and out re-staking his tent. I yelled through the wind, “My raft is gone!”
The closer I looked at the beach, I started to realize it wasn’t just my raft that was missing.
After the tents were secured, we went to the tip of the island and shone our head lamps out into the darkness. The beams sweeping back and forth turned up nothing. But then on the second pass I caught a glimpse of red on the far bank. Without missing a beat, I jumped in the river. I reached the far bank where my raft was patiently chilling in an eddy. I half expected it to crack a smile on its bow and ask, “What’s with all the hurry?”
I thought of my own song lyrics. “Don’t push the river, it pushes itself.” I swept the bank for any of our other missing gear. Nothing. Back on the home side, I lashed all three of our boats together and climbed in the tent soaking wet.
At sunrise Charley and I were standing on the beach looking downstream while I explained what had transpired during the night. Suddenly he interrupted me, “Dad I see my pfd!” We grabbed my raft and floated downstream. Sure enough his pfd was caught in a strainer, then he spotted mine, and then my paddle. Like a puzzle, piece led to piece, and in the end, we recovered all our gear.
While packing up the boats I remembered having glanced at my phone to see what time it was when crawling back into the tent after rescuing my raft. 3:43am. While I may have won the bet, it seemed the river gods had humbled us by returning our gear, jackpot!
About the Author: Ben Weaver is a poet, songwriter, letterpress printer/book maker, public speaker and endurance cyclist. He creates work that breaks down the emotional and systemic structures separating humans from the ability to feel out connections to the greater web of life and each other.