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A Story About Assumptions - How Roy Jhciacb Cohen became the first man to navigate a Class IV rapid without any kind of watercraft

August 1st, 2021 11:29pm

It was about twelve years ago, I guess.  Some buddies and I had rented a bunkhouse on the Niobrara River near the Nebraska / South Dakota border.  Portions of the Niobrara are part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.  Floating the river on giant inner tubes is a wonderful way to spend a summer's day.  You can soak up the sun, enjoy the scenery, look for wildlife, and banter with other folks floating the river.

For the most part, the Niobrara is a gentle river.  We put in at a point above our bunkhouse at a spot that would allow us about four hours on the river and take us right back down to our bunkhouse.  Although I love floating the Niobrara, four hours is about my limit because the summer sun will change the color of your skin to predominantly orange if you stay on the river too long. 

The government has banned alcohol on the federally protected portions of the river, but the river cops left us alone, instead preferring to focus on the younger floaters.  We enjoyed everything about that day.  We even stopped at Smith Falls and stood beneath the cold water, and that felt great after several hours in the hot sun.

After four hours, we pulled our tubes out of the water just above the Rocky Ford rapids.  Although the Niobrara is not as challenging as the rivers in Colorado, there are rapids here and there.  One set of rapids is at Rocky Ford -- rapids created where the river drops over some large rocks.  The owners of the bunkhouse told us these were Class IV rapids.  The International Scale of River Difficulty defines Class IV rapids as, "Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water."  For purposes of this article, the key word there is "boat."

After cleaning up, we brought our lawn chairs (and beer) back down to the river, right by the rapids.  It was sometime after this that my brother, Roy, noticed some older teens playing in a pool of water just below the rapids.  They did not have any inner tubes, a kayak, a canoe, or any other type of watercraft. 

It was sometime after this that my brother musts have thought to himself, "Hey, if those kids can swim through those rapids, I can do that."  So, with a look of determination on his sun-burned face, Roy walked into the river to a spot about fifty feet above the rapids and began swimming toward them.  We watched with anticipation as he entered the rapids.

A few seconds later Roy emerged from the rapids in obvious pain.  The young looked at us and shouted, "Help."  We all ran toward him, helped him get out of the river, and walked my shaken brother back to his lawn chair.  There were cuts and bruises on his body, and in general he was not looking too good.  The nearest hospital was thirty miles away, so we medicated Roy with alcohol and Motrin, just like we had been taught in Boy Scouts. 

I saw those young people playing in the same spot the next day, and they asked how Roy was.  I told them.  They asked why he had done something so stupid, and I told them he wanted to be able to say he had swum through the rapids just like them.  They looked puzzled.  "We didn't swim through the rapids," one of them said.  "We just walked out from the bank to that pool."

And that is the story of how my brother became the first to navigate Class IV rapids without the benefit of any kind of boat.   

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That Thing with George Jefferson

August 1st, 2021 11:21pm

Mount Rushmore fascinated my oldest daughter, Natalea, from an early age. I don't know why. When she was eight or nine years old, my ex-wife and I decided to take a road trip with our kids to Mount Rushmore, but we kept our destination a secret.  

So, one summer day, we loaded up the family vehicle.  I believe it was a Grand Cherokee because I know this took place before I rolled my Ford Explorer into Boulder Creek during a blizzard.  (Shout out to Rick Dirr).

As we headed for the Black Hills,  the kids were excited and kept asking where we were going, but each time they asked we just repeated, "It’s a surprise." To be fair, I tried to give them hints by repeatedly singing, "Now somewhere in the black mining hills of Dakota, there lived a young man named Rocky Raccoon, and one day his woman ran off with another guy, hit young Rocky in the eye." This may have been a factor in my divorce. Not sure. But I digress.

We stopped at Guernsey State Park in Wyoming for a swim, then continued on to Lusk, which has little to recommend it, though it does have a Sinclair station to offers Coca-Cola products rather than Pepsi products. From there we crossed into South Dakota and drove through Custer State Park.  Custer State Park is to buffalo what today's Republican party is to ignorant people. You see a lot of buffalo when you drive through Custer State Park, and the children enjoyed that.

From there, we began the last leg of our journey.  As we got within a few miles of the monument, we turned a corner and for just a second you could see Mount Rushmore between some rock formations before it vanished from sight. Sure enough, Natalea saw it and became extremely excited. "That thing," she said. "I saw that thing."

"What thing, Natalea?"

"That thing.  That thing with George Jefferson."

I knew right then I had just heard the funniest thing I would ever hear in my life, and that my life was over because it would all be downhill now. I suppressed my sadness and said, "Oh Natalea, we are one thousand miles away from Mount Rushmore. You must be imagining things."

"No," she insisted.  "I saw it.  I saw that thing." We eventually arrived at the monument, and the jig was up.  The kids knew our destination. Natalea got to see Mount Rushmore.

Natalea had no way of knowing she had confused two American presidents with the star of a TV sitcom than ran for more than ten years. But even at the age of eight she could spell "coffee" correctly. And she never confused 9/11 with 7/11.

Natalea is a geologist now, and maybe that trip to Mount Rushmore had something to do with that. She's about to begin graduate school.  You could say she's movin' on up.

As for George Jefferson, why shouldn't he be on Mount Rushmore? People seriously think Trump should be on it, so George Jefferson would be an a fortiori case.  It wasn't easy for a black man to own a successful dry cleaning chain in New York in the 1970's. And, as far as I know, George Jefferson was the first person to use the word "honky" on national TV.  That's good enough for me.

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