The Good, the Bad, and the Witless, Part 3
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado
I have witnessed some very amusing things along the
South Platte River. One spring while fishing Happy
Meadows with my companion Zachary, we saw one of the
most comical sights ever to grace the rapids of the
South Platte. We had just started fishing a section
of the river in the middle of a stretch of rapids.
As we moved downstream, we could hear, but not see,
the object of what became the most comical sight we
had ever seen while trout fishing. Quietly we fished
our streamers, and as we fished the noise coming
downstream got louder. We assumed it would be the
usual inner tube floating down the river. Normally
with inner tubes, we peacefully sit along the bank
and wait for the disturbance to pass. This time we
did the same, walked over to the bank and sat, waiting
patiently for the current to carry the people and their
inner tubes downstream so we could continue our pursuit
of brown trout. As we sat, Zachary started laughing in
a most exuberant manner. Between his robust laughs,
Zachary pointed upstream to a most ridiculous sight.
There in the middle of calm water, just about to hit
the rapids, was a Tom Sawyer-like raft with two people
poling their way down the river. The base consisted of
two-by-sixes nailed to some cross boards underneath.
There was a make-shift pole in the middle standing
upright. I think the upright pole in the middle was
there to hang onto in case the river got a little wild.
Zac and I sat along the bank watching with glee as the
two rafters poled their way toward the rock-infested
rapids. We knew what lie ahead for the ill-fated
rafters, I am not sure they knew what awaited them.
We could not contain our laughter. During times of
high water, floating inner tubes down the river is a
most enjoyable experience for water lovers. But even
during times of high water, there is no way for a raft
measuring ten feet by ten feet to float down the river,
especially with all the hazardous rocks lying just under
the surface and all the huge exposed rocks that would
not allow even a five-by-five foot raft to navigate
through the entrapments. Zac and I both knew that
the fate of the rafters would turn into nothing more
than a swim.
We decided to stay upstream from the rafters for at
least half-an-hour before venturing down for more fishing.
As we sat at the shore, we heard the clamoring, the sounds
of wood crashing against rock, and the sound of people
plunging into the water. With each sound, we renewed
our laughter. I thought to myself it would be a long,
long time before I witness this kind of witless action
on the South Platte again, until just a few weeks later...
August of 2001 came along and it would soon be time
for the kids to go back to school. So, Zachary, Alex,
and I thought we would get in one last fishing weekend
by camping at the South Platte River near the confluence
of the Tarryall River. The second day while we were there,
we decided that during the afternoon of a cloudy day, I
would start upstream about half-a-mile from where we camped.
The boys were going to fishing downstream from the campsite
and I would meet them back near the campsite, but first the
boys had to drive me upstream to where I would start fishing.
The boys were out of sight for only ten minutes when I
walked past a blind turn of the river. To my amazement,
I saw a 1972 white Ford Bronco in the middle of the river
buried in water to the hood ornament. In the back, the
water was at the hinge of the tailgate. My first thought
was, "Did I not notice a car float by me while I was fishing?"
I had no idea how the vehicle got there. I cautiously waded
in the direction of the truck when I saw a young man walk
away from the vehicle. He was soaked to the gills. Slowly
he waded through the water back to the shore where he perched
on a rock with his girlfriend. As I approached the shore where
he was sitting, I asked him if the truck was his and how it got
there. The young man's story, he was four-wheeling through the
middle of the river when he turned toward a rock and was 'sucked
in' by the soft sand around the rock. Well, it wasn't just a
rock; it was a boulder, and a boulder that I fished quite often.
The current around the rock is formidable, and the sand beneath
it is washed away to make a very nice hole for fish, not trucks.
I knew I would not get much fishing done in that area because
of the commotion caused by the four-wheel drive truck.
I got out of the water just downstream from the truck and
climbed up the bank to the road. I was surprised to see
the boys come driving back toward me. They had noticed
the truck in the water and had to come back to see how it
got there, and how it was going to get out of the water.
The boys pulled off the road and came back to me and we
sat down near the river to watch what was going to happen
with the truck.
Just ten minutes later, we observed another four-wheel drive
truck coming up the river. It approached the white Bronco
and stopped. The Bronco owner got into the water and helped
the other driver tie a heavy rope from the Bronco to the
second vehicle. The second vehicle drove in reverse and
towed the Bronco to a place where the second vehicle could
maneuver around the Bronco and re-attach the rope to pull
the Bronco. The second vehicle put the Bronco in a position
where fellow four-wheel drivers from the shore could pull
the Bronco to the opposite shore.
I thought the raft down the South Platte River at Happy Meadows
was the most witless display of sporting foolhardiness I had
ever seen. But witless sportsmen never seem to be at a minimum.
To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado
The South Platte Chronicles Archive