Stick your tube in the muddy water. Tire inner tubes work best, and I don't mean pick-up truck or car inner tubes. I mean the big rig, chrome nudes on the mud flaps, cut you off on the interstate, pull over for a two dollar blow job at the local lollipop stand, eighteen wheeler truck inner tubes--the kind that when overpressurized will take off a limb. Blown up to 45 psi a tractor trailer tire tube will reach 50 inches in diameter and sit just so in the water, perfect for an adult's bottom to dip inches into wetness and better still for a cooler full of beer and ice to ride half a foot in cool, slow moving water.
We always put in above McKee's Half Falls ten miles upstream from Skull Island for a raft float. Most times its name should be McKee's No Falls as the water level prevents anything more than the slightest roll down over the submerged rocks and concrete, a drop in elevation that barely causes a break in the river's smooth surface. In high water the falls present a formidable challenge to kayakers and power boaters who have but one brief thrill that must be repeated over and over for any real adrenal satisfaction. Really, the area should be renamed McKee's Half Fall, singular--as there is but one fall, and it is slight, barely a stumble from grace.
The slow roll over the falls started the day--a summer's day, one built for just such an event--for ten of us who needed to drink and dance in the sand on the island. I recently found this picture of me sitting in one of those oversized innertubes with my sister--yes, that's my sister--lounging in my lap on the deck of the cabin out on Skull Island after a float down from the falls. (Can you believe the hair? the 'stache?)
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The party detritus littering the background is typical of a morning after on the island. What you don't see are the tents and sleeping bags lying on the sandy loam beneath the cabin--nests full of hung over teenagers and young adults trying to recover from 24 hours of partying their nuts off.
What you do see is a near empty bottle of Tiger Rose; the stinkingest, most super syrupy, cloying assembly of grape skin pressings fermented with sugar and molasses you could ever hope to avoid (or void). Also, though you may not realize it, you see yours truly sans scars from dozens of stitches and procedures on the legs and a pre-multi break schnozz, and oh, my goodness, the hair. Where did it go? Down the back, finding roots by miracle genetic natural voodoo black magic cursed genetics? On the ears, replanting with follicles more tenacious than kudzu? Both, it seems.
I don't know why, exactly, it is that I post this other than perhaps now that I have a little one and am so excited for the day that I can take him down the falls and tell him the stories of every island we pass on the four hour float to Skull Island--that and I am missing the river more than ever. In my last house (soon to be on the market--please roll all your pennies and dimes to make an offer) I lived on a river and worked on a lake but now have been high and dry for the last three years, living in a city too far from slow moving water.
The old saying that once you've spent significant time living on water, you're never happy again away from it, may be true. Part of it is true for me, anyhow.