Thursday, November 6, 2008
A brush with death
If you think that is a scary title, then you should have been here for the real event. I was more scared then I have been in years. More frightened then when I was in Vietnam and getting shot at. It all happened so fast, there was no time to even think about what to do. We were pulling mooring blocks out of the river for the winter and had just begin to lift a 3000 lb granite block off the bottom when the chain fell off the winch and the barge surged or jerked and I was catapulted into the river! Just like that. I was under water and the current was sweeping me away from the barge and my friends. The water was pre-winter frigid and I was dressed in heavy work clothes, dungarees, fleece, wool shirt, and steel toed boots. Thank god we were all wearing life jackets. The PFD popped me to the surface and turned me on my back. Things were happening way to fast. The guys couldn't help. They were in the middle of the river attached to a granite block. I just couldn't believe I had gone overboard. The closest shore was 100 feet away so I made like a penquin and began flapping my arms and doing the backstroke. Oh gawd I thought. This is dangerous. I knew I'd better get to shore quickly as I was chilling down fast. Gamely I just kept flapping my "wings". I must have weighed a ton with all those soaking clothes. Finally...eventually...it seemed like I'd been paddling forever...I reached the ledge and grabbed a tree branch to haul myself up out of the water, but the branch broke and I fell back into the drink. Talk about an awe heck. Next time I crawled up the darned rock. By now things were very serious. I was wet and cold and exhausted. The guys weren't having much luck either. After a couple of false starts they finally jetisoned the mooring and came to my rescue. We rushed back across the river and I sloshed my way up to the garage where I wiggled out of all the wet clothing and boots and hit the hot shower. Ahhhh. thank gawd. I can only imagine what would have happened if I'd not been wearing that life jacket. With the tide falling and the river so cold I would have been a news item in the local paper. Geeesh. So there it is. They say everything that happens in the life of a writer is "material." That must be so. There's one story in Sandbox Camp Tales about when I was in college and flipped over in a canoe and another one about a canoe trip on the Machias River when my buddy and I overturned. I guess if I wait long enough this recent brush with death will make its way into a story and whatever comes next after Sandbox. I can't wait to see what that is.