The Raft - Part 1

           When I was a teenager, our family lived in Island Park, Idaho every summer then moved back to Idaho Falls for the fall and winter. Dad had bought property at Last Chance and we built an a-frame building out of beautiful logs. It was a store and gas station, Texaco. My brother Tom and I ran it. It was a lot of fun and hard work but we enjoyed it. Fishing was our main diversion, we spent a lot of our off time wading and fishing the river.

            When I was 14 or 15 years old I got an itch to build a raft and float from Last Chance, down thru the Railroad Ranch to Osborne Bridge. It was only about three miles from our gas station to Osborne Bridge via the highway, but by the river with its meandering turns- it was probably double that distance, maybe more. I had figured out how I wanted to make the raft. It was a simple design: take two tractor tire inner tubes and lay a sheet of plywood over them and drill a few holes in the wood, then tie the plywood to the inner tubes and, voila, we would have a nice raft.  My friend and I also made paddles from pieces of plywood and pine sapling poles.

            We made our plan to leave as soon as I got off work that afternoon and we’d put in the river, which was just across the highway from the gas station. We figured our parents wouldn’t let us go so we solved that problem by not telling them. I did tell Tom my older brother. The old saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” applied here. We had our fishing poles, etc. we were set.

            We had a marvelous fun time. It was a warm sunny day, such a beautiful river and the Railroad Ranch is a scenic place. Grazing cattle along the banks, green meadows and sage brush, beautiful mountains and pine trees. I had never floated the river before, but I figured it was all like what I knew and had seen.

            WRONG! We hit a rapid almost before we knew there was one. It wasn’t bad, just bad enough to tip us upside down and we lost our fishing poles. I do remember walking along the bottom over rocks, etc. - and looking up to see the surface further away than I could reach.  We were able to make it to shore and get our raft back, but not the poles. Well they never told us about this. Well, who’s “they” and why would they tell you if you never asked?  You never asked! I was a late bloomer, know that, and I think I started to sprout brains a little as I grew older, but not at that time. It would have got in the way of having serious fun.

            We got our paddles back also which helped us a lot as we proceeded down river. It was a gorgeous place, and the trout were rising everywhere. The sun went down as we cruised along and we started to get a little chilly, having not all dried off. As time passed and it got cooler and darker, we were wondering a little just how much father we had to go to get to Osborne Bridge.  We had planned on hitchhiking back before anybody even knew we were gone. The only thing we hadn’t planned for was getting tipped over in the rapids and how much farther it was by river than by road. As these factors were starting to become part of our reality we thought we could hear something up ahead that sounded more and more like the roar of rapids...

to be continued...

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