Saturday, January 15, 2005

Noah's GTO

Generally speaking, camping shouldn’t involve much more than flopping out in a wilderness place with your blankets and a fire and some food and drink. Fishing is a nice accompaniment but isn’t absolutely necessary. The ritual of camping can be done at any time of the year, but seems most pleasant in the fall when it’s cooler.

Winter camping can be exhilarating, which is why the little bride refuses to camp with me anymore. Suffice it to say, she found no humor in hoarfrost on the blankets in the morning.

The summer I was fifteen, a new family moved in next door. The son, Wyatt, was my age and they were from Greer, South Carolina. For some unknown reason, Wyatt’s dad gave him a ’65 GTO at that age, and it contributed to what I feel was the best summer of my life. Wyatt, Jeff and me were the three amigos.

Wyatt’s goat was red and had an eight-track suspended from the dash which hooked into a couple of box stereo speakers strategically placed on the parcel shelf in the back window that blared Nitzinger, Captain Beyond, and Uriah Heep constantly. It was a hoss that could scream starting or stopping. The V-8 was somewhat loud and required a push out of the driveway and a roll down the street before starting it, if we didn’t want anyone to know we were leaving at 2:00 a.m.

One glorious summer week, the three of us informed our parents that we were going camping and loaded up the goat with blankets, skillets, an ice chest and extra clothes. I tossed in an old pistol for fun protection. The Ozarks were beckoning and we couldn’t resist the siren call.

It’s amazing the old goat held up to the abuse we put it through. Low water bridges, where we drafted water to the rocker panels, rutted dirt roads that snaked up and down knobs overlooking the breathtaking scenery of the Buffalo River valley. A descent down a boulder strewn track that more resembled a roller coaster than a road brought us to the put-in at Morning Star.

We wound up the first night on a grassy point just above a large gravel bar. There was a grey barn and the river was cold and clear and murmuring and there were Indian arrowheads washed up in the gullies and cow paths. We hiked and hunted for relics, explored the old zinc mine across the river at Maumee and dried by the fire after a midnight swim.

We awoke in the morning in the midst of a herd of cattle, grazing unconcerned along the grassy bank. We moved our base of operations down on the gravel bar so as not to interfere with the bovine element, and spent a day in Paradise. In those days the Ozarks weren’t overrun with tourists and city slickers.

The second night came a horrendous wind and the thunder and lightening crashed with such regularity that we sought refuge in the car. The raindrops started as large as Dixie cups and our thoughts turned to being stranded for days at the bottom of a slippery, muddy trail that traversed the mountain nearly vertically. It was then that the decision was made to drive to the top of the mountain to wait out the tempest.

It was late anyway, so we fell into various piles in the car to sleep and regroup at morning.

At first light, I began to regain consciousness and wrapped the wool army blanket around my neck as I sat up to greet the dawn. What I then beheld amazed me then and amazes me to this day. We were completely and utterly surrounded by water.

Calm, pink streaked water that glistened in the budding sunlight. Here and there you could see the tops of distant Knobs poking up from the deeps and I had some feeling as to how Noah must have reacted the first time he looked out of his ark. I caught my breath and shook my companions awake so they could share in my abject despair. I was unselfish like that.

The snapshot I wish I had taken on that trip would have revealed the wide open mouths as we surveyed the destruction that had taken place in our world while we slept. And we knew we didn’t have enough food on hand to wait out this sort of alluvion.

As the Creator had promised Noah He would never destroy the world with water again, as the sun rose above the neighboring mountain, the ether that was the ocean between us and safety evaporated in an instant and our world was restored. The way the light had played across the tops of those low-lying clouds had tricked our eyes into seeing water. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, and have never seen the phenomena repeated.

But, that wasn’t the most excitement we had that trip.

1 comment:

BillyBudd said...

I used to have a 66' Coupe De Ville that we tied my fishing boat to the roof when I was a teenager. My buds and I would go fishing for a week every summer out in the sticks and our parents never worried. One time we so overloaded the old beast that I was dragging the exhaust. We stopped at a roadhouse at 2 am. I drove the two right wheels on the porch and took of the exhaust system right behind the drivers door. We drove over 400 miles in that 22 foot long 6600 pound sled that sounded like a B-17. On the way back I stopped and picked up my tailpipe that was laying in the tall grass and put it back on. What tall tales we still tell from those days....those halcyon days.