How high is the water, Mama?
by Robert Wildwood
The day before we evacuated from The Snowball in Pelican Island Park, we had en eventful day on the river. Leaving the entrance to the Pelican Island Chute, we could not make it upriver, and hod to all get out and pulling the ropes, haul the boat back to the main channel over s submerged sandbar. I had walked the length of the sandbar the day before when the water was 3 feet lower, and knew it was solid. We did it, and the sun came out shining. Then motoring down the Missouri we saw Savannah and Zoe on the bank, looking with binoculars i saw them, and Zoe’s dog willard, and further down the bank, a long stream of white five gallon buckets and other possesions floating rapidly away. The Two Headed Dog had sank! We went to shore and picked them up. Peat took the canoe out after their buckets and recovered them all, except for one which i later picked up in the canoe as we continued downstream.
While attempting to pull off and wait for us to join up, The Two Headed dog threw anchor and the strong current on the outside of the bend swamped their aluminum john boat. Zoe grabbed her dog willard from the sinking vessel and they all swam to shore, unharmed.
We motored down to Pelican Island Park, all seven of us aboard The Snowball. A fellow named Dave who decided to come on the boats until St. Louis was able to offer a ride into town when we got to the park. We recieved word here that the river would rise 8 feet. We looked down at the boat. 8 feet would be about up to the level of the park grass. Hmmm… The crew of The Snowball remained with the boat over night. I slept the sleep of one who must not sleep, waking up every hour to look out the window of the tent at the rising water. In the morning the river was inching towards our camp. At dawn i stoked the coals of the campfire and made coffee. When i was done drinking that, the water slid into the firepit and i began packing up. Fern and Bella awoke with their tent surrounded by a few inches of water. Peat slept on the boat. We packed up onto the boat and talked as the water took over the park. We watched huge logs flying down the river, entire drift piles set free, red nun bouys ripped from their cables, and a number of white refrigerators go down. The road out of the park would soon be flooded out and we faced the prospect of spending a week on the boat. This was not going to happen. We loaded our gear into my canoe, The Saucer, and pulled it thru the knee high water that filled the park, out onto the road which was gently flowing with water from the large chute behind Pelican Island, and crossed the flooded out road two at a time in The Saucer. I was happy we brought that canoe then, because looking down that flooded road filling with river water, i thot, ‘this is how people die’. Thinking the water was shallow and mellow, only to find a wild undercurrent sweeping them away. It actually was totally mellow, and the current was flowing towards the high ground. We locked up the canoe in the trees and laid our wet clothes out on the green grass under the shining sun, really happy to be outta there!
Some jerks working in the park insulted us and called the park rangers on us, who stopped us as we left the park heading for our friends at the Bolo Zone in St. Louis. The rangers, once hearing our story, apologised for running our ID’s and commended us for attempting the journey. We bid them good day and continued on our rush hour bike trek into the heart of the beast, arriving at the Bolo Zone to find Peat, who had to walk with his dog Ged, already there, hanging out with Zoe and Savannah. He got a ride with a Lewis & Clark re-enactor, who had a dug-out canoe on top of his truck! Strange. The man was very happy to have rescued a fellow river rat and took Peat directly to his destination. We got a large case of our favorite beer, Stag, and built a fire at the Bolo Zone, our sanctuary in St. Louis, and hung out with our friends Alyssa, Billy, Dan, and others just met, happy around the campfire, just like every night for the last month we had been on the Missouri River. I think Ged and Willard were happy to see each other too.
In five days the river is predicted to drop below flood stage and we will return to see what’s up.
Many thanks to our new friends in St. Charles at the Franklin House, and to our old friends at the Bolo Zone whose doors are always open to the river refugees that float in.