With the events of the last week, it’s hard to imagine that Spring is almost here, but it’s coming! I love the Spring for more than just warmer weather. Spring is the season of new life. For the next few weeks I will consistently check the trees for new buds. I even welcome the grass beginning to grow again! Spring also means it’s time to start fishing. In the next few days, I will pull my boat out and start prepping it to hit the water soon. Making sure everything is working correctly before hitting the lake or river is important for multiple reasons. The last thing you want to do is get to the lake and your boat not crank. Or worse, you get going down the river and run into problems.
It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, sooner or later you will run into issues on the water. My family loves to pick at me about all of the problems that I’ve had over the years. Shoot, I’m even in a group chat with a group of local coaches that constantly make jokes about me sinking boats. I’m glad I’ve been able to provide them with some entertainment over the years. My wife, however, doesn’t think it’s that funny.
The time period was the summer of 2009. I hadn’t been handgrabbing for catfish in a couple of years and was itching to go. I convinced a friend of mine, Michael Fuquay, to let me borrow his boat for the day. He had a 14 foot aluminum boat with a 25hp motor that was the perfect size to take down the Okatoma River. I have to wonder if Michael really knew me as well as he thought, or if he just thought that taking his rig down the river couldn’t produce any harm. I convinced my wife, Amy, who was my girlfriend at the time to go with me. I also called an old college teammate, Jordan Rogers, who is now the head baseball coach at South Jones, and invited him and his girlfriend to make a day of it with us. Three more people that had no idea what they were getting into.
We met Jordan and Kristin at the Okatoma Outpost, where we left a car there to take us back to the boat launch in Seminary at the end of the day. We launched the boat in Seminary and headed downstream. I’d never felt so free in my life. What could ruin a day on the river with good friends? That question was answered about two hours later. We stopped a few times to fish a couple of holes I knew about along the river but had no success. We would stop at sandbars every so often to eat and swim. Shortly after lunch, the sky turned black and the wind got cold. We got caught in one of the worst thunderstorms that I’ve ever been in while on the river. Lightning was popping everywhere and I was certain that we were all going to get fried in that boat trying to get to cover. The girls were absolutely terrified, and inside, so was I.
The storm finally passed and we continued down the river. We picked up the pace a little in case another storm rolled through. I don’t think the girls could handle another one. Soon we came to a small waterfall in the river. When the river is up, you can go over this fall no problem in the boat. However, the river was not up, so we opted to get out of the boat and walk around the edge while I held a rope attached to the boat. My plan was to guide the boat down the softest part of the fall and let the current bring it over to me once it was over the falls. Everything went perfectly, until the boat got stuck on a boulder at the bottom of the waterfall. I held the rope and watched in horror as water came over the fall and poured into the boat. I pulled the rope as hard as I could, but the boat wouldn’t budge. It didn’t take long for the water to fill the boat up, and all I could do was hold that rope and watch Michael’s boat sink to the bottom of the Okatoma.
When enough water had successfully entered the boat, it slid off of the boulder and sank to the bottom. I was still holding the rope but couldn’t pull it to shore. This is where the trip gets really interesting. Two guys came kayaking down the river and went right over the waterfall, flipping each kayak. The current pushed one kayaker to the bank where we were standing, while the other one bobbed up and down like a cork in the middle of the river. The second kayaker couldn’t swim and began to panic. He somehow ripped his life jacket off in the panic and was struggling to stay afloat. Jordan quickly jumped into action and swam out to the stranded kayaker. It was just like the movies where someone jumps in to save a person drowning and has to punch them in the face to get them to calm down to be able to save them. Jordan pulled the man ashore saving his life. At this point, I was incredibly freaked out, but still holding the boat. The men asked how they could ever repay us for saving the guys life. Hey, I know how. How about helping us pull this boat out?
The two guys helped us get the boat out, and soon, we were all on our way back down the river. One problem. Now the motor, which had been submerged, would not crank. After an hour or two of floating with no motor and the sun starting to go down, I frantically began trying to get the motor to crank. Alas, just as darkness hit, the motor fired up. We didn’t have a flashlight because nobody thought we’d be out this late, but we made it back to the landing eventually. I’d never been so happy to see Kristin’s car. One more problem, Jordan left the keys to the car in my truck…which was in Seminary. Thankfully, a man and his daughter were camping and took us back to my truck. We brought the boat trailer back and began winching the boat out of the river. Due to the landing being sanded over we couldn’t back the trailer down to the water. While winching the boat up to the trailer, I all of a sudden heard a loud POP. Yep, I’d pulled the handle right out of the front of the boat.
Michael, concerned about our well-being, had called me multiple times. I finally got around to calling him back to tell him what all happened. He didn’t even seem mad. What a great friend! The next day I took his boat to get it repaired. Believe it or not, he even let me take it out again not too long after that. Amy, however, did not make the next trip. To be honest, I’m surprised she even talked to me again after that day. Yet, here we are, after almost eleven years of marriage, still nervous about getting in a boat with me. Wonder why?