Swinging on the river

Story written by Rain Rider on Saturday 13, February 2021

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Every year I tried to take my two children back to Minnesota to see our relatives. My sister Cathy loved to float down the Rum River either in the canoe or out on her own in the current. After traveling to a nearby resort we rented two canoes and hitched a ride on the bus from the resort to a drop point about five miles up river. My sister Cathy and my daughter Tracy took one canoe and Michael and I took the other. The day was starting out hot which is not uncommon for early august in Minnesota. I was eager for a hot day because I wanted to spend a lot of time stopping along the way to swim. Cathy had been down this river many times and encouraged me that there were lots of great swimming holes and even a few rope swings. I told her how I had promised the guys at work that I would bring back a picture of me being a wild man. An image of me plunging into the river swinging from the end of a rope would be perfect. We had packed along a lunch and I brought a gallon of water. We were prepared for a day of canoeing as well as swimming. About half an hour into the trip we came around a bend in the river and met our first rope swing. The rope looked a little high above the water, but I hoped I could reach it . After ditching the canoes on the shore I walked through the water that was about chest deep. Reaching up to take hold of the rope I found it was just inches away from my grasp. I jumped for it and was able to get a grip with one hand. At this point I could obey the pain in my hand from hanging with my full body weight and let go, or I could pull myself up far enough to get a grip with my other hand. Before I could hold on no longer I pulled myself up and continued going hand over hand until I was able to get my feet on the bottom of the rope. I started putting the rope into a swinging motion and my sister took out her phone to take a picture. When she said she was ready I dropped into the water as I posed for the picture on the way down. As I came up out of the water she told me she didn't get a good shot and that I would have to try it again. It took three more attempts to finely get a decent image of me falling through the air from the rope into the river. I had a lot of fun dropping from the rope, but my hands were now red and raw. I dove into the water ignoring them until they recovered on their own. Soon we were shoving off from shore to continue our journey down the river. The un-official state bird of Minnesota is the mosquito, and your chances of not giving the customary quart of blood is an impossibility if you're there in the summer, and on a river you might give it all in just a few hours. The children were overwhelmed with the intensity of them on a few stretches of our trip. I just endured them. Having grown up in this area I was used to it. To bring some relief to the children we all abandoned the canoes and took cover in the water. We soon made it past the thick of them, and were able to rise up out of the water. The river didn't have very many straight sections, and soon we came around a bend to see another rope swing. The rope on this swing was high above the water like the other one, but someone had tied a bicycle innertube on the end of it so it could be reached. Again we pushed the canoes up on the shore to go swimming in the shade of the trees. I immediately went after the rope swing. This one was a little different than the last one. The extension of the bicycle innertube allowed me to pull the rope up a high bank along the shore and even mount myself on the branch of a tree. I could see from the tree that many others had been here before, and I even wondered if I could get a little higher in the tree to get a really great swing out over the water. I decided to give it a try before I went too crazy just to see how it went. With the rope gripped tightly in my hands I jumped from the branch and sailed out over the river with a loud yell. When the rope had gone out as far as it could I let go and dropped into the deep cool water. I soon surfaced with an excitement in me to do it again. My son Michael was already climbing the bank with the rope in his hands. I encouraged him to start off from the tree but he seemed hesitant to even jump from the bank. To my knowledge he had never done anything like this before so gave him a few words of advice. I told him to make sure the rope had no slack and to hold on tight. He was a little reluctant to jump but I assured him it would be great. I was out of the water by the time he made his launch and I was able to see him fly past me on his way out. When it came time to let go of the rope he held on, and on the way back he dropped into the river. I applauded his efforts as I gathered up the rope and climbed the bank. By the time I was on top of the bank I could see my son coming up to the shore wanting to try it again. We both enjoyed the rope swing a few more times. I could never get my son to the launch from the tree, but I decided to try to launch from that higher branch. It was a little awkward but I knew if I pushed off just right I could avoid hitting some of the other branches in the tree and I might get a longer sweep over the river. I also thought that I might be high enough over the river on the far end of the swing to attempt a halfway decent dive. With a hearty shove I was able to avoid getting slapped in the face by the other branches in the tree and I was well on my way to a spectacular swing and possibly a stellar dive. Before I knew it the rope had come to the end of its travel and I poised myself for the dive. Everything was going well until I felt something along the upper part of my leg above the knee. In the time it took for me to release my grip on the rope and plunge headfirst into the river I realized the innertube was wrapped around my leg. There was no possible way of doing anything about it by now, but this fantasy thought flashed through my mind that said " everything will be fine". Then this dark reality entered my heart as a smile spread across my face and the words " Oh no it won't" . The innertube tightened around my leg but then couldn't get past my knee. I was going into the river and the weight of my body stretched the tube all the way down beneath the surface of the water. When the innertube would extend no further it snapped back out of the water shredding the flesh on my right leg from the knee down to the ankle. It felt like the skin had been ripped away like someone had just torn off a sock . I floated to the surface to see what my leg looked like, and to see what I had expected, my sister laughing hysterically, and my children looking on in wonder. My leg may have hurt terribly, but I was laughing at what this must have looked like to my sister. When we left the rope swing my sister and I stayed in the water guiding the canoes down the river with the children in them. The whole trip may have lasted a few hours or more, but the memories will never leave my mind, and we all met on that river in Minnesota many times after that.
   

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    Very well done.