Sunday, January 8, 2012

The River Wins a Round

 The flood waters receded slowly during that December of 1982. We were left with 2 inches of mud in our entire living area and everything that we had was ruined with the exception of what we were able to ferry out by boat. We had gone to stay at Rosie's parents house, but as soon as the river was back in it's banks, I took our van conversion/motor home and parked it in the spot where our garage used to be and took up residence in it. We had turned over the accommodations of the second floor of our house to our 85 pound Alaskan Malamute, Minga, as we had no where to take him. His only sanctuary from the mud was our king size mattress where he slept. The house was just a mess.
 I lived in the little motor home and spent time between work and getting a handle on cleanup, and dealt with insurance adjusters. The propane heater kept the motor home relatively comfortable as far as temperature went, but it wasn't until years later that I learned how close to death I had come during that time. I was using an upper bunk to sleep in while there, and I remember times when I woke in a grog, not really wanting to stir at all, lost between a conscious and semi-unconscious state. Had I been sleeping in the lower part of the motor home, I don't think it's a dramatic assumption that the carbon monoxide that gathered in the lower part of the motor home would have killed me. Once again I came out on the winning side of providence.

We were able to get our home cleaned up enough to be livable, to a degree. We only had portable propane heat that luckily didn't kill us, but the only thing to cook on was a single burner electric hot plate. Christmas that year was a little sparse. We had a ceramic Christmas tree about 12" tall that lit up, a sofa sleeper to sleep on that to this day I swear ruined my back, and a good supply of canned dinners.
 It wasn't hard to become disillusioned with river life in these conditions. My parents, as well, began to make noise about finding another home on higher ground to live in. Once we learned what our flood insurance payout was going to be, we also figured to collect enough money to put down on a "real house" and we started looking. Although our first house on the river wasn't exactly the lap of luxury, every house we looked at just didn't have the appeal we were looking for, and after my parents had picked out a nice home in the suburbs, the thought occurred to me to purchase my parent's river home, as it stood 2' higher in elevation and was just a plain better house. Negotiations, however, didn't go so well. Once I had gotten them to agree on a price, minor things like who was to take over possession of the washer and dryer that had sustained some flood damage, began to erode the process. When I got the impression that my dear old mum thought I was trying to cheat her out of something, I looked at Rosie and just said, "Let's just forget it". The ill feelings bound to surface in the future were not worth the appeal of maintaining life on the river, as small as that appeal was at that point anyway.
 In the spring, of '83 we sold our home to our neighbor, Vernon Lurkins, "as is", and really cheap. We paid off our mortgage, and pocketed a modest down payment for another home and wound up buying a house on the highest point of a neighboring county, in High Ridge, Missouri. The name is fitting, we had a 20 mile view of the sunsets and lots of privacy. My parents home on the Meramec sat empty. We used the grounds for picnics and the boat ramp for, well, boat ramping. We began to trailer our boat to the Meramec River, and to the Lake of the Ozarks, and to other relatively nearby bodies of water, spending entire weekends on the hook and sleeping in the cuddy cabin of the 23' Cobalt that we bought.

Here we are on Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas

 It was during this time that we really began to fall in love with life on a boat. Even with the sparse accommodations aboard the Cobalt, wanderlust ensued. Our first extended cruise was on the Tennesse River. We trailered the Cobalt to Kentucky Lake, plopped her in the water, and with nothing but a Quimby's Guide, a handheld VHF radio, and a compass, we made a 700 mile round trip on that beautiful river, the Tennessee. That two week trip is still remembered by us as one of the best vacations we had ever taken, and we still think back on the wonderful people we met along the way.
 But three years later, circumstances arose that called us back to the banks of the Meramec.

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