Archive for July, 2015

Branching out

Our friends, Shane and Georgie, have floated with us a time or two, and after those adventures, they decided to get kayaks for themselves and their kids (son 16, daughter about 13, and daughter about 6).  At church on Sunday, they surprised us by saying that they had had a fun family float the day before on. . . are you ready? . . . ROARK creek!

Now seriously, who’dda thunk?!?

Roark?  Really?  Has anybody every floated Roark?!?  Right through the middle of Branson?!? Well, Shane and Georgie have, and they said it was good.  They did this unheard-of thing on the day before our own fiasco in the deluge on Sunday afternoon, and they said the scraped a little, but not too bad.  Evidently, while Bull Creek is gravelly, Roark is rockier, with bigger rocks to steer around and some significant drops of a foot or more.  But Georgie, who hasn’t done a huge amount of floating, said it didn’t scare her, and I could see the gleam in Scott’s eye.  In fact, we discussed trying it ourselves – the two of us – that afternoon, but since God already had Ethan Moore ready to grill burgers in the rain on Bull Creek, it really wouldn’t have been right to expect him to move his whole deal to Roark on short notice.

I thought Shane told Scott they floated from Salem Road to the mouth at Taneycomo, but in looking at a Taney County map, I’m thinking I must’ve misunderstood; it must’ve been Sycamore Church Road.  He said the water was somewhat below the slab when they started, and it would have been a better float if it had been just a few inches over the slab.

Well, let me tell you that all it has done this whole week is rain and flood the creeks, so I’m sure it’s over the slab now!

This afternoon, Andrew and I were in town for an appointment, and I had told Scott we’d be home around 4:30.  At 4:24, he called me and asked when I’d be home, and I said in about six minutes.  When we got here at 4:28 – with Scott it’s always best to exceed expectations – he was out loading kayaks.  It seems that he and Shane had decided that they and their respective 16 year-old sons were going to leave in 15 minutes to float Roark.

So they left at 5:00, and it’s now 7:30, and I’m expecting them back any minute.  They were going to float from that same slab to the basketball court area on the far side of the creek at Stockstill.  I’m sure they will have stories to tell!

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New (or at least additional) job description

Andrew will be embarking on a grand adventure when he begins school as a sophomore at Trinity Christian Academy next month.  I think his main goal right now is to make friends, fit in, and be accepted by his new set of peers, and one thing that I believe is facilitating that process is his participation on the TCA basketball team.

He’s never played on an organized basketball team before, although he did have some basic instruction and practice when he was attending our local homeschool co-op, Veritas Enrichment.  He’s in pretty good physical shape and he likes basketball, but he’s been a bit short on experience.  This summer is giving him lots of basketball opportunities.

In addition to shooting at our (in his words rather dilapidated) goal out back – and his coach wants him to take 500 shots a day! – for several weeks, they have had 1.5 hour practices three afternoons a week.  Initially these were at the school gym in Hollister, but later at the Branson RecPlex.  Andrew’s been to most of those.

The team, TCA Eagles, has also participated in a “shoot-out” competition on several Thursday mornings in June and July, only one of which Andrew’s been able to attend so far, but it looks good for his playing some next week (July 16).  Now, I am not a very well-informed mom when it comes to athletics, so I had to learn what a shoot-out is.  It’s a three-day deal where teams from all over the area come together and play a dizzying schedule of short games (two 15-minute halves). The TCA team typically plays only two games on Thursdays. but there are games going on all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  The one I attended a few weeks ago was in the Branson (Hilton) convention center, which has three full courts side-by-side in one huge, extremely well-air conditioned (read: freeze your ever-lovin’ buns off!) room. There are one, two, or three games going at a time, and for a nominal fee, one can sit court-side and shiver and watch.  Most teams had ten or so players there, so they would play five guys for a while and then switch off; it looked like each team usually played its varsity (bigger, more experienced) guys against each other and then its junior varsity (smaller, less experienced) guys against each other.  We lost both games I watched, but Andrew did get to play for several minutes, and though he didn’t shoot and therefore didn’t score, he focused on rebounding and seemed to learn a lot.  That means he was teachable, and for a Roberts, that can be a significant achievement.  I was really proud of him for “getting in amongst it.”

This week, one of the dads took his vacation time to host a two-hour basketball clinic at 8:00 AM each morning at the school gym.  Unlike the Branson convention center, that single-court sized air space is not air conditioned at all, so in the middle of the summer, early mornings are really the only times to enter it and live.  Andrew has especially liked the basketball clinic and stated that he wishes it would keep going, because “It’s a fun way to start my day.”  They’ve mainly drilled a lot on fundamentals – ball handling, dribbling, etc. – but the past couple days they have also scrimmaged, five-on-five or three-on-three, and he grinned when he told me  he’s made some shots.  He said that today the other guys also found out he was a gymnast, so he turned a round-off, double back handspring, back tuck that really wowed them.  I asked if he told them he plays the piano, too, and he said, “No, not yet.  I want to impress them gradually.”

That’s probably smart.

I never was a soccer mom, but maybe now I am working my way toward becoming a basketball mom.  = )

Bull riding

You know, rodeo sports, like. . .  calf roping, whip cracking, and steer roping.  And floating Bull Creek.

You see, Andrew was at work for most of Sunday afternoon.  It was about 80 degrees and sunny.  The creek was up.  Not raging, not even flooded, just nicely up.  We talked about what we’d like to do alone together for those few hours, and I said something like, “You know, in most years, by July the creek is nowhere near deep enough to float.  It’s July 5, and how many more opportunities will we have this year?”  We decided to seize the moment.

We’ve got this prep thing pretty well down pat.  Basically, Scott does all the work of getting the kayaks onto the trailer and secured, while I stand around and be beautiful.  = )  I ask him about a few key items that have been forgotten in the past (his shades, the key to the hitch lock, the back of his kayak seat); we apply sunscreen; we fill water bottles; we take the Honda over and park it by the bridge (that’s so that we can put the two kayaks in the trunk – yes, in the trunk!!! – to drive them home); I get all confused about which vehicle I should leave our towels, my keys, and my driver’s license in – but Scott tells me what to do about all those; and we head up to the Round Mountain Road put-in.

So we did all that uneventfully and launched out into the not-too-terribly deep, and all was well.  The weather was gorgeous, there was no one on the creek, we talked, we swam, we had fun. . . until suddenly the sky clouded over and we heard thunder a ways off.  Not exactly what we wanted, but not to worry.  A little rain never ruined a float trip, and surely it would just be one of those afternoon, passing-on-through kind of showers.  And since I was wearing my wide-brimmed hat, I’d still be able to see even if it rained, and in a few minutes it would all be over.

Not exactly.

It rained cats and dogs.  It was the kind of rain where, when driving on the highway, people pull off under the overpasses because even with their wipers going full blast, they can’t see through it.  Even with my hat, I was having a hard time seeing well enough to figure out which way to go (always a challenge for me in rapids), and I was getting concerned about the lightning.  Somehow, sitting in a kayak in a creek in a thunderstorm didn’t seem terribly smart.

We pulled over and beached our kayaks (yes, I turned mine upside down; I’m not totally ignorant!) on the right bank at Gaar’s and, in another move that was admittedly not brilliant in a thunderstorm, we huddled together under/against the edge of a huge tree than had been knocked down and beached there two or three floods ago, in an effort to get out of the worst of the rain for a few minutes.  However, being soaked to the skin, I found that standing still with the wind blowing and the temperature dropping made me shiver.  I figured it would be easier to stay warm if I was paddling, so when the rain switched from torrential to quite heavy, we headed on down the creek.

As we approached the spot below Gaar’s where that nasty tree’s been across for over a year – but thankfully it had been gone (or maybe just submerged?) when we went through two weeks ago – Scott was leading, to show me the best way to go.  This time, there WAS a tree across, and it went almost all the way to the left bank.  The end of it was sticking out to the left about 12 inches above the water and at most two feet from the steep and gravelly left bank.  I guess that would be the, ahem, rive gauche.  = )

I also heard voices on the left bank, and that was very odd.  After all, it was pouring down rain.  I thought I saw someone through the trees over there, but I didn’t have time to focus on that person.  I needed to watch how Scott got by (or around or over or through) that tree, so I could do the same.

I watched Scott deftly steer himself around the left end of that tree.  The current is fast there at that slight bend, and you have to go extreme far left and then immediately make a sharp right turn to get around it.  I suddenly realized that I wasn’t skillful enough to do that.  I wouldn’t be able steer myself through the sliver of space around the end of that tree without flipping, and I was already too close to it – and the water was moving way too fast – for me to do what in hindsight would have been most prudent; beach the silly boat and portage around.  With seconds to go, I decided that my only option would be to try to slide OVER the tree some ten feet to the right, where it was partially submerged.  Hopefully I could hit it just right and the current would be strong enough to push me safely on over this maddening obstacle.  How I resented that stupid tree!

So that was my plan, but at the last moment, I saw (with some horror) that there was not enough water over that log.  Indeed, if I hit it, I’d tip in the worst possible way, so I paddled like crazy and tried to steer left, in a frantic effort to get around the end of the thing as Scott had done.  Much too little, way too late.

I slammed sideways into the tree and instantly flipped.  Out of my kayak and shoved under the water, time switched to slow motion.

OK.  I flipped.  I need to breathe.  Try to breathe.  Can’t breathe.  I’m under water, and instantly, claustrophobia and panic take over.  I’ve gotta breathe.  Right now.  I HAVE TO HAVE AIR!!!  I see gravel, but it’s everywhere.  Which way is up?!?  The water’s not that deep.  Just figure out which way is up, Patty, and stand up.  Even if the current knocks you over, even if it shoves you back under, you can handle that.  You can fight the water again and deal with being drug along the rocks once you’ve taken a breath.  Just get your head to air NOW!

Knowing I shouldn’t panic, but panicking anyway, I flail my arms around, trying to find air.  If I can just get my arms out of water and into air, I can follow them with my head, and surely I’ll be able to breathe.  I push hard in the direction I think is up and hit something solid.  The kayak!  The kayak’s over me!  I’m pinned under my boat!!  It’s full of water, so it’s too heavy for me to push it off.  My brain screams, “HELP!” but obviously I can’t make any sound under the water.

As the fear and terror of drowning grip me, someone grabs my arm and pulls me up.  Mercifully, my head comes out of the water and I breathe.  Oh, breathing is so very good.  I try to stand, but stumble.  Beginning to fall again, I hang onto whoever is holding me – it’s a man – and I grab the only thing I can, the edge of his shorts.  Gasping and struggling against the current to stay upright, I see him holding one end of my boat against his leg.  Another guy is reaching for the other end of it.  I see Scott a few feet away coming toward me.

I look more closely at the man I’m holding onto.  “Ethan Moore!  I’ve never been so glad to see you in all my life!!!”  (Ethan is about 21, one of eight children in a homeschooling family we’ve known for many years.  Ethan’s married now, but his parents own a large spread of land along Bull Creek.)

Who’dda thought?

I grabbed some roots and stood still, trying to catch my breath, and knowing full well that I didn’t have the strength to climb up the couple of feet to solid ground without falling back in.  That bank is steep and gravelly.

It turns out that Ethan and two buddies had gone down to the creek with  – can you believe this? – a charcoal grill(!!!) to cook hamburgers, but the storm came up and, not wanting to eat soggy burgers, they were just standing around near the grill, waiting to see if the rain would let up.  Now, please understand that there was absolutely no reason for them to have picked that spot.  There’s no “beach” or access point there, no particularly striking view (although all the land around the creek is just incredibly lovely), and no good swimming hole.  They had just happened to choose to have their picnic not 20 feet from the end of that troublesome tree.  So they just happened to be standing there when Scott went through, and when they saw me coming and realized I wasn’t going to make it, they just happened to be perfectly positioned at exactly the right time to pull me out.  Wow.

When Scott and I discussed it all later, I asked if he had seen me tip.  Yes, he had already turned around to watch me go through.  I asked what he thought would have happened if Ethan and his friends had not been right there right then.  By the time Scott saw I was in trouble, shoved his boat up the bank, and waded back through that current toward me, would he have been able to get to me in time to pull me out from under my boat?  All he said was, “It would’ve been tight.”  Very, very sobering.

So Ethan and his friend dumped my boat for me and made sure I was OK.  Scott and I stood there shivering for a few minutes while my heart rate dropped back down into the “extremely fast” range.  Then, having given my rescuers our heartfelt thanks, in the still-pouring rain, we got back in our kayaks and headed on down the creek.

But here’s the totally amazing thing.

Just a few minutes later, the rain stopped, and as we approached Shady Rapids, we saw Ethan’s truck driving downstream along the left bank, and then crossing the bridge in front of us.  They were leaving!  They hadn’t even stayed to eat their burgers.  That means that God must’ve put them there just for those ten minutes to pull me out when I tipped!  That is simply amazing.

The whole thing was so incredibly bizarre.  That anyone would be out picnicking in that storm was crazy.  That given several miles of creek bank on each side to choose from, they would pick the one spot where I HAD to have someone strong standing by to rescue me still gives me shivers.  God clearly went way above and beyond to take care of me on Sunday.

And yes, I still love floating that creek!

With apologies to Ernest Thayer

The Promise Keepers were playing in the church league tournament on Thursday night, June 25.  It was a play-till-you-lose deal (no time limit, seven innings or run-rule), and although we scored fewer runs than First Baptist Branson in the 6:30 game, we ended up winning it because our erstwhile opponents had done that hush-hush, technically forbidden thing of playing some very accomplished guys who hadn’t met the minimum participation requirements with their team during the regular season.

[Note: We witnessed this same situation a few years ago with a team from another area church that shall remain nameless.]

Anyway, First Baptist was disqualified, so at 7:30 we went on to play CORE (a.k.a. Church Army), whom we disposed of handily via run-rule.

Our guys then got to rest at 8:30 and watch a close game in which The Sanctuary lost to Living Word Church from Branson West.  Living Word’s players were generally speaking – and in so saying I mean no disparagement of our players; especially of our eldest player! – a bit younger and a bit more fit than ours, and I thought we might have some trouble.  It was late, and after two games our guys were tired, and, well. . .

Well. . . the championship game commenced shortly after 9:30, and we were batting last.  We held our own initially, but by the 5th inning, we were hitting not so well, we were fielding their solid hits even more poorly, and the score was tied, ten all.  The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the PK nine (Trey was sitting out that game and just “coaching”) that night.  Well, actually, let me just abandon the play-by-play prose and give it to you straight.  And since WordPress suddenly flatly refuses to allow me to have spaces between stanzas, I have added some ~~~~~ for legibility.

MY HERO AT THE BAT (by W2)

~~~~~

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the PK Nine that night.

The score stood ten to ten with not much power left in sight.

Two outs had just transpired in the bottom of the 5th,

When to the batter’s box My Hero strode and shook his hips.

~~~~~

We know such shake with elbows raised portends a strike, and so

We weren’t surprised when Bob the ump growled “Strike Two,” (though ‘t looked low).

Again, Scott took some practice swings; he often does the same,

But he’s been known to miss a pitch released while he takes aim.

~~~~~

We watched with bated breath and nervous sweat the pitch come down,

Knowing if we didn’t score, the sixth would make us frown.

Scott swung, and made good contact with that neon yellow sphere!

Would it be caught?  Oh, who could tell?  Right center; how we peered.

~~~~~

It did look deep, but we weren’t sure – the tremors, the suspense.

On flew that ball, o’er all their heads, then rolled on toward the fence!

Our runners ran from every base and tore the diamond round,

With pumping arms and grunting lungs; fans made a screaming sound.

~~~~~

We urged them on with all we had, those desp’rate racing four.

We near grew hoarse as they raced on; we few, but what a roar!

We saw the fielder finally scoop the ball and hurl it in.

Oh, RUN PK-ers!  Don’t quit now!  We stand a chance to win!

~~~~~

One by one the three came home to whoops and cheers galore.

Emotions high, we wondered: would Scott hold or try to score?

In rounding third, he looked to see and in an inkling chose

To keep on tearing toward that plate despite his gathering foes.

~~~~~

The catcher planted both his feet; Scott slackened not his pace.

He sped toward home with all he had.  He would not be disgraced.

The throw was off but only just; the catcher stretched. . .  and failed

To keep his foot upon the plate; where Scott’s foot did prevail!

~~~~~

‘Twas one for all the record books, an in-the-park grand slam!

The crowd went wild, we clapped, high-fived, and hugged, and danced a jam!

Who would have thought?  Who could have known? Such heart within these guys,

To press so hard and give so much to win that noble prize.

~~~~~

Two innings more, and though the scoreboard see-sawed back and forth,

Our Promise Keepers held their ground; they hit for all they’re worth.

The final score I can’t recall, sixteen to twelve perhaps?

In any case, it was enough for our victorious chaps.

~~~~~

I think the winning factor was a phrase Scott had us chant

With rising gusto when it seemed our guys were weak and faint.

Scott rallies folks where ‘ere he goes.  Deep from his heart still pours

The cry that “Everybody hits, and everybody scores!”