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Voices of Spencer Creek
|The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Down the River or Adventures in Innertubbing
What a peaceful hour. Cows came down to the river to drink. Kingfishers and water birds went about their usual affairs . . .
By Lois Barton
Posted on Jul 5, 2004
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When I started this article I assumed that many readers would be uncertain about what innertubing is. I searched the web for a picture to illustrate the story, and discovered that my naivete was showing when I wrote the definition that follows. Not only is innertubing a common practice for snow sports, but specially constructed inner tubes are for rent in popular watersports places all over the country. But here's my definition.
An inner tube is a hollow rubber doughnut with a valve that can be filled with air under pressure inside the vehicle tire it is made to support. Innertubing is riding on water--pond, lake or stream--sitting across such an inflated tube to keep oneself on the surface of the water.
A letter from our daughter in Ohio today has stirred some unusual memories. Her letter reported that her husband and three teenage children had gone innertubing on a local creeek whose flow was greatly enlarged by all the rainfall in the area.
Their experience was colored by finding three beaver dams across the creek which diverted flow unexpectedly. The husband's innertube was impaled by a stick early on, and completely deflated, so he walked the route carrying the tube for a while, but evenutally abandoning it., Occasionally he stepped into a hidden hole up to his neck in the water since there was no way to determine the actual land surface under that raging flood. In spite of the spate of water there were places where the flow was only about six inches deep, full of brush and debris. Hence not much progress on the tubes. What they expected might take them an hour and a half actually took more than three hours to reach the next country road a mile from where they had put in, and well short of their expected goal. They had collected and must pull off eight leeches when they got out of the water. Ugh!
I've lived in Oregon since the late 1940s, but this report reminded me of a girlhood experience when I lived in Ohio. The farm where we lived in the 1920s had a creek running through it called Cold Run. Ordinarily it was a small stream we actually drove through where our driveway crossed it. The bank had been levelled and a load of gravel laid in the water to make a surface for vehicles. Normally the water might be 4 or 5 inches deep where the road ran through it. We children regularly played in the creek in warm weather, sometimes building small dams with the gravel to raise the water level enough that we could immerse ourselves and possibly even swim a few strokes. Where the stream flow was minimal, there were usually leeches hiding along the banks, and we often had to pull them off our legs after a time of dabbling.
Some seventy-five years ago Ohio also experienced flooding from heavy rainfall, and Cold Run grew to an unbelievable torrent across the pasture. My sister and I decided, after the rain was over and the sun came out hot and humid, to go swimming in that racing stream. The water was very muddy since there were tilled fields upstream from our place.
We went into that swift current about where our driveway normally crossed the creek. We headed with the current across the pasture toward the line fence probably 500 feet away. Never had we covered ground so fast, floating along in that flood. The water was so deep we could not touch ground to slow ourselves. Pasture fence posts showed only a few inches above the surface of the flood water. Tree limbs and rubble from upstream floated along with us, hanging up on the fence. We were able to slow our breath-taking speed by grabbing the tops of those fence posts and working our way across the fence line to a tree at the side of the flood.
Our impregnated swim suits had changed to mud color. Our skin was coated as well. Safely back on solid ground we went to clean up. This foolhardy experience gave us a healthy respect for the power of water in larger quantities than we usually dealt with.
A very different innertube adventure occurred here in Lane County, Oregon several years ago. In my middle age I went with several of our children to float the McKenzie River from Hayden Bridge to Springfield. We had large tractor tire innertubes. The temperature was 90 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky. We appreciated the cool water where we sagged into the middle of the tubes, and even brought water by hand to keep us damp and cool top side as well.There are no rapids in that section of the river and no leeches in Lane County streams. We floated along over three to four feet of sparkling clear water, watching the stones in the bottom and occasional fish swimming beneath us. At one point we observed the sunken remains of an old wooden wagon wheel, wondering whether it had made the trip across the plains a hundred years earlier.
What a peaceful hour. Cows came down to the river to drink. Kingfishers and water birds went about their usual affairs, paying scant attention to the unusual flotsam drifting by. Some sunburn. Friendly casual conversation. A very pleasant time looking at the backside view of riverside properties. No oars to direct our course, but hands work just as well. A drift boat ride could be an enjoyable adventure, but I endorse innertubing for hot summer days.
Copyright ©20004 by Lois Barton
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Writer and historian
Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.
Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.
Visit the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte Section in our new format for more of Lois' stories. See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By Northwest.org online magazine's archives:
Visit the Heron Rookery
Sauerkraut and All That
Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife- The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.
And follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton!
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