Astonishingly, the river world looked normal as they crawled out at daylight. After the symphony of the storm the night before, heavy on the percussion with a startling light show, it was eerily quiet, as if the fog blanketing the surface of the Current was muffling the morning. Walking down the bank to the crystal-clear water, Tarzan pointed out the focus of his night watch – a large stone set between the tent and the river’s edge. If the rains had been heavy upstream and flooding a possibility, the stone would have been the silent alarm to run for higher ground.
Ready to hit the river, breakfast was postponed. They had paddled through the diminishing mist for about an hour when they realized they were approaching the bridge at Van Buren. They had been close enough to have had hot showers and rest in warm dry beds during the storm the night before if they had only known where they were! (Nancy Drew had learned lesson #3 the wet way. The place one touches a tent during a rain will become a leaking spot that won’t stop dripping till the rain stops falling.)
During their quick breakfast they decided to reach the boat ramp at Doniphan before dark. They had rafted the distance before in a two-day float so they were determined to cut that time in half; it was early and canoes are more maneuverable. They were cheered by the challenge and by being in familiar territory.
Perhaps it was Tarzan who learned lesson #4. The lookout seated in front COULD and WOULD and DID take over control of the vessel when she deemed it necessary for life and limb. Call it mutiny if you will, but Nancy thought it needless to challenge Harry’s Root by aiming to shoot over the least treacherous-looking part of it. Yes, safely doing that might help them save a couple of minutes in their time, but tipping could add hours if they were unscathed enough after a second spill to right the canoe and gather its contents without the aid of a well-placed gravel bar. She could recall only scary tales of encounters with Harry’s Root.
A paddle planted vertically in the gravel will cause a canoe to twirl nicely toward the bank. It thwarted all tauntings of Harry’s Root and choreographed a smooth à la main droite to the gravel bar in a small cove nearby. Nancy hopped out. The sooner Tarzan gave up on the foolish idea of river dancing with Harry, the less time they would waste in dialogue about it. Perhaps the scene was worthy of applause, for it attracted the attention of some campers on the bank above them, unnoticed until they asked the pair if they needed help.
A bit embarrassed by having an audience for this impromptu performance, the two reached a quick resolution. Nancy took the lead in this two-step and AROUND the infamous root wad they paddled. ( In other words, Nancy won that time.)
Back then there were pay phones in public places. At 5 pm Tarzan used the one at Float Camp to call the outfitter where the pair worked to alert their colleagues they would be ready for pick up in about an hour. That last hour was a jubilant one. They had paddled from above Van Buren to Doniphan in one day, and from Baptist Camp to the local boat ramp in 29 actual floating hours. What a wild ride for one flatlander and one city gal! Bring on the celebration!
Alas! They glided to the ramp with no fanfare, no honking horns, no waving flags; not a soul was there to greet them. The tractor pull at the county fair had prime billing.
And life goes on.