Anytime I share memories with my brothers, and sometimes even the parents, I find out how different our perspectives are. I can’t recall if I ever talked about this with my little brother, Luke, but I think I did. I’m pretty sure he remembers this differently than I do. I will recount as much of this as I can. Many memories from that time are incomplete. I think that is the case for most people. I just don’t remember everything.
Deckers was a place my dad used to take us camping all the time when we were kids. It was along the North Platte River in the mountains of Colorado. I think I need to infer that I truly hated going camping. I hated the bugs, the meals cooked on the fire, the doing dishes in the river, peeing outside, POOPING outside, sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground (before Dad got the RV), waking up in the cold of the night, being forced to hike in the hot sun, and just the general idea of camping and being away from modern amenities that made me feel human. For me, camping’s only saving grace was tubing down the river. And the stars, there were so. many. stars.
My dad would drive us about a mile or so upriver and let us tube down. For the most part, the river was relatively calm, not many places of rapid currents. It was mostly a peaceful, jaunty ride down a calm river. It took up enough of any day spent camping, that it made camping tolerable for me. That and the occasional “bring a friend” trip.
The trip that I am willing to share a memory of is one such trip. Luke was the fortunate one who got to choose a friend to bring along. He decided to bring Anthony, our neighbor. Anthony and his family lived straight across the street from us. Luke and Anthony were about connected at the hip around this time, so they did a lot together. Including almost being swallowed up in the culvert on Coronado Pkwy. Luckily, Luke didn’t go along for that one.
We all hopped into he back of Dad’s ’60 something beat up old Ford, arms hugging our tubes. He drove us to the spot he usually dropped us off at and saw us into the river. The ride was going smoothly. Watching the scenery go by was tranquil and people on the banks would wave as we tubed past. We came upon a bit of a rough spot. The water was white in mild violence. There was a lip with a decent dip on the side of the river that Anthony’s tube had floated.
I was in the lead of our group. Just kinda of meandering along. I had no idea anything had happened until I heard Luke in a panic.
“ANTHONY! ANTHONY?!” He called out. (I think maybe Anthony went by Tony back then, I can’t quite remember.)
I used my hands to float myself around. I looked, saw Luke, but no Anthony. I felt a little twinge of something as I looked all around for him. Then I spotted him, standing about ankle deep on a rock with his tube under his arms grinning from ear to ear. I couldn’t help but smile back. He was dripping wet, so he definitely took a dive.
Luke was still freaking out and getting almost hysterical. “ANTHOOOONNNYYY!! Lex, where is he? Do you see him? I can’t see him! Anthony!!”
I was still smiling because Anthony was kind of giggling now. When Luke turned and looked at me he yelled at me.
“This is NOT funny! What if he’s drowning? What if he dies?!”
I started laughing now. This all was happening in mere seconds. After the bit of white rapids, there was a very slow moving part of the river that was really shallow. We stepped out of our tubes.
“How can you LAUGH?!” That moment was when he spotted Anthony, standing on the rock laughing. You could see the relief tremor through him. Luke started to laugh, but it was angsty sounding. Eventually, his laughter turned genuine. Once Anthony made his way to us, we hopped back in our tubes & continued down the river.
That story kept us entertained for the rest of the camping outing. Each time we made the trip back up river my dad would remind Anthony to hold on tighter! I know I haven’t gotten it all right, but I do distinctly remember the panic in my little brother. I don’t think I’ve ever known him to freak out that badly. Not before and never since.