In case you missed the first chapter of the story, here is a link:
Panic on the River: Friends Join Up
As we rejoin the story, let’s take a quick look at where the story last left us.
As the oversized boat journeys downstream, majestic cottonwood trees line the river bank. The guys relive past stories and throw out a few new jokes. The sun is heating up the raft’s surface, and Fred feels thirsty. Sitting at the bow, he slyly pulls a cold beer from the chilly river water. Nature provides a perfect way to keep these barley pops cold, and Fred intends to enjoy a few.
Bill and Pete, sitting in the middle of the boat, pay close attention to the river as they paddle and assist with the steering of the craft. Randy, the mighty river navigator, hardly notices Fred pulling a beer out of the water. Steering the raft from the stern, he notices that the Little Gulch is running much higher than he expected.
With the river cresting at such a high level, the boat continues to pick up speed in the churning waters. Randy glances at his watch, and he figures that they will reach Clifton about an hour earlier than expected. “No worries,” he ponders. Thinking to himself, perhaps the gang can enjoy a longer lunch break several miles away.
The buoyant raft slides into a long stretch of challenging whitewater. Everyone begins to feel an adrenaline rush, excitement builds, and the men prepare to float the most exciting segment of the river.
Meanwhile at the bow, Fred pays little attention to what lies ahead. Another icy, cold beer is sliding right down, and the deceptive Little Gulch will soon bring on more excitement than anyone can imagine.
The eight-man raft picks up speed again, and Randy steers the boat on a straight and steady course. The large craft is handling the whitewater and rapids without much difficulty.
Out of nowhere, a swarm of mosquitoes attack the crew. The fellas do their best to fend off the biting invaders. Suddenly, the overwhelmed craft becomes airborne as it maneuvers more like a large rubber tube instead of a hardy and manageable river craft. Jumping up and down violently in the quick-moving water, the overmatched boat swirls along as the river attempts to swallow it whole.
Bill and Pete, feeling perspiration running nearly as rapid as the Little Gulch, continue to perform yeoman’s work to keep the boat on a somewhat straight course through the ever-increasing rapids. Randy, feeling a bit of panic, realizes that he must stay extra alert and as steady as those ancient cottonwood trees lining the river’s edge.
The buzzing mosquitoes are beginning to fly away when Fred excitedly stands up.
Rule #1: Never ever stand up in a moving boat!
A final attack of the airborne, vampire bugs proves too much for a beleaguered Fred. In the middle of his thoughts, he remembers his father, Fred Sr. The elder Fred died a few years ago when he fell off the roof of his home and struck his head. Perhaps he should sit back down before he falls out of the boat, but fate decides to intervene at its most opportune moment.
Fred continues to stand and swat wildly at the raging mob of mosquitoes.
Randy yells at him, “You need to sit down. Now!”
Rule #2: Always listen to the boat’s captain!
Well . . . sometimes worthy advice shows up a bit too late!
Fred tumbles into the powerful waters of the Little Gulch. The guys hear his screams of terror before the river surrounds him and pulls him under the violent surface. Randy strains to keep the raft steady as the river seems intent on possibly dumping the large boat upside down. The Little Gulch’s pace quickens—as if on cue!
Bill and Pete glance at each other, wondering what to do next. Bill, who cannot swim, tightens the straps on his life vest and looks forward to where Fred was just sitting.
Fred’s life vest is nestled at the front of the boat. In their haste to get the trip started, everyone missed Fred sliding his life vest under the bow area. Fred is now fighting for his life—just the river and him!
Pete screams, “How could Fred be so incredibly stupid!”
He hurriedly scans the river, and finally spots Fred’s head and shoulders popping up above the foaming whitewater. Fred, in a semi-drunken state, is splashing around helplessly. Everyone hears his muffled cries of panic and despair. How will these three men prepare a plan to save foolish Fred?
As their boat hurries down the wild river, the guys realize that Fred is likely doomed. But . . . fate always finds a way to tantalize and tease at the most extreme of moments.
Amazingly, the Little Gulch’s ravaging current pushes Fred towards the shore where the ageless cottonwood trees conveniently dangle their branches just above the river’s boiling surface. As a waterlogged Fred reaches and grabs one of the branches as a lifeline, the fellas watch as he tightly grips a lone branch for his very life.
“Help! Help me!” echo screams of help from Fred.
The raft dashes to catch up to Fred, who is looming closer and closer. With a few more yards yet to go, Fred may soon be saved from the clutches of the river.
Out of nowhere, a large tree limb cuts between the raft and Fred. Like a large water snake gathering speed, the enormous splinter of wood rushes through the water towards Fred.
Fred’s grip loosens as he is knocked back into the main waters of the Little Gulch.
Randy and Bill groan in utter disbelief at Fred’s terrible misfortune. Pete senses that it is now or never for saving Fred. He alerts his boat mates with a shout that he will try to save poor Fred.
Stay tuned to this same river channel for the exciting conclusion when we all witness “Heroism Arrives.”