Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When you see this... means Yellow Creek just went above 4 feet and it's time to mobilize.

Look how lucky we got (Saturday was the 24th):

Monday, October 26, 2009

Remember you can right click on a picture and choose "Open in New Window" if clicking on it directly hangs you up.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We are no longer going to publish the words "Yellow" and "Creek" next to each other on this site because other canoeists surfing the web might find out about the best kept secret in Tennessee. From now on it's just The YC.

Hint: It's in the eastern half of the State.


Friday, October 23, 2009

The gauges started turning up around 1:00 am. The rain last night was hard at times, but sometimes it didn't rain at all. Don't know how that will translate on the river. It might be a really fun ride. Or it could be the kind of flood where you get passed on the river by the legs-up bloated carcasses of cows and pigs and the farmer's daughter. Red River is probably out but will be interesting to see this afternoon. Show Me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009



Sacré nom!

A few follow up items.

- First, Jack can't go this weekend, but he says he remembers the mill dam incident "vividly" and we should be careful. He also wants you to know that the Chuck Box is surprisingly buoyant, at least for a little while. The only other things we found floating that day were a can of Pringles and one can of Busch beer. Both of which we split.

- Greg was headed north on I-24 this morning and left us a message. He was crossing the Red River on the way to Missouri and said it looked good. But with rain on the way tonight and tomorrow, there's no way to know for sure until we see it. You see, I come from a State that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to Show Me.

- Not including "The ROY in the Log" in the list of RRCC miracles was a major omission. Our apologies.

Wow, four miracles for one canoe club. That's pretty good.

- Since this is recession era canoeing, we are not in our usual active procurement mode. There have been no purchases of heavy (definitely non-buoyant) tools, equipment or musical instruments this fall. But we need to make one exception.

Because of the uncertainties about where we're going to paddle, we need to be prepared for some guerrilla river access and we need a machete. If anyone has one, let us know otherwise we'll get it at Friedman's.

We actually thought we might find one in Phil's warehouse last night. It's about the only interesting tool or contraption we didn't find. The place looks like a mad scientist's garage sale and we should have a post-trip meeting there sometime.

- And finally, don't let all that Frog talk in the menu fool you. We won't be using a French press for our camp cofee, we'll only order Freedom Fries at the Cunningham Diner, and the Pot Wrassler could probably put his boot all the way behind his head if he wanted to.

One of the all time great moments in Goodbye to a River....

Bill said the Jaycees in the city where we'd both grown up had been saddled with the entertainment of some foreign dignitary, and one of them, an official in a bank to which Bill owed money, or had owed it, had decided that it would kill time to show him a ranch.

"This one?" I said. It was not much to see at that time, a thousand acres or so and only partly cleared of cedar.

"Flat Top," Bill said. "But they don't know the Flat Top people and they don't know their way around this country, so I guess we're elected."

"You are."

"We are," Bill said.

"France," Davis Birdsong said, his tone less unconcerned than usual. "Hit's a big Frenchman."

He doesn't lack curiosity, and an hour and a half later when a seven-passenger Cadillac eased to a stop at Bill's gate on the highway, Davis was with us. The bank official was driving, a plump fellow I'd known as a boy. Call him Seagrove. . . . He introduced us to a little mustached Frenchman named Ratineau, seated beside him. A newspaper photographer in the back seat looked boredly away.

Ignored, Davis stuck a hardened hand through the window at the Frenchman. "Birdsong," he said. "D.M. Birdsong. How do."

M. Ratineau blinked and was again charmed.

"I was borned and raised around here," Davis said.

"Yes," the Frenchman said.

"He doesn't understand much English," Seagrove said irritably. "We better get moving."

We climbed into the back by the photographer and Davis took one of the jump seats. I saw Seagrove's eye flash coldly around at him, and saw too that Davis hadn't missed it.

Driving, Seagrove said with wide gestures, gravely: "Ranch country. Much cow, sheep, goat."

M. Ratineau nodded politely and gazed out.

Davis snorted. "What kind of movie-Indian talkin' is that?" he said.

"Please?" the Frenchman said, turning.

Seagrove said: "I told you, he doesn't understand."

"What is he, anyhow?" Bill asked.

"Well," Seagrove said. "Secretary of something or the other. Treasury, I think."

"Commerce," the photographer said.

"I think Treasury," Seagrove repeated.

I tried out a stumbling, polite remark in French to the Secretary, and he spouted back happily. I had to ask him to slow down. He said he had a hard time understanding Texas English, and began telling me, too fast, about some unjust experience in a hotel. . . .

"Pretty talk," Davis said, listening. "But damn if it don't look stupid, comin' here without knowin' no English."

"That's a hell of a thing to say right in front of the man," Bill said.

"He can't understand," Davis said. "Fatso there done said so."

The photographer snorted. Seagrove's thick neck was pink. The Secretary asked if I was familiar with the combination of the little peas with the carrots, at luncheons.

Was I not.

"Sacré nom!"

Where it seemed I should, I murmured.

But at the big ranch, a show place used to celebrities, a foreman took over and drove Seagrove and the Secretary and the photographer around the pastures while Davis and I and Bill waited at the auction barns. When they got back, the little Frenchman had his picture taken aboard a palomino stallion with someone else's big Stetson down around his ears, and taken again holding a rope attached to the halter of a prize bull.

Then we left. It was hot in the car and no one spoke for a time, until the Secretary said to me: "One prefers vineyards. Listen. That bull. Thirty-five thousand dollars?"


"What folly!" he said.

Davis tapped his shoulder. The Secretary looked around. Davis said: "Like I told you, I was raised right here in these cedar hills. Now looky here what I can do."

Reaching down, he grabbed his right boot heel and then, with a quick thrust upward, placed his leg around his neck. "By God!" he said. "Looky here."

The wonder in the Frenchman's face became a smile, and then abruptly he let out a squeal of such genuine laughter that it made Seagrove in the driver's seat leap.

"You look too, Fatso," Davis said levelly from beneath his own knee.

Seagrove glanced around briefly, the heavy flesh about his mouth twitching with fury. But the photographer was laughing, and so was I, and M. Ratineau was wiping away tears while he sobbed to himself: "Ah, the droll! Ah, the marvelous peasant!"

And later, as the three of us stood by Bill's gate watching the Cadillac vanish ahead of an irate wedge of white dust from the road shoulder, Davis said: "That Secretary of France, he was all right. Wait till I tell 'em in Glen Rose."

"How would you know what he was like?" Bill said, pausing with the gate half opened.

"I could tell," Davis said. "But that Fatso . . ."


"I got his goat," Davis said. "I guess I showed that jessie."

We passed through and Bill latched the gate behind us, grinning a little off center.

"Dog gone you," he said. "I guess you did."

Goodbye to a River, pp. 276-79.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Menu Is Up!

Friday Night

Sheboygan Bratwurst on Ol' Smokey
Hard Rolls
Fried onions and peppers

Saturday Breakfast

Pork chop sandwiches at the Keysburg Ser Sta Gro
(if Red River)

Country breakfast at the Cunningham Country Diner
(if Yellow Creek)

Saturday Lunch

Savarino sandwiches

Saturday Dinner

Charcuterie et fromages artisanal
Châtaines avec Speck
Daube Provençal
Haricots Verts à Robert
Pan Rustique
Gâteau Rive Rebel

Sunday Breakfast

Beer Cakes

And don't forget the Club conf call tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5:00
Dial-in number (866) 506-1416
Passcode 615 726 7381

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trip Week

Official meet time on Friday will be 12:00 noon. In the driveway. We'll post directions to the farm later this week so if you need to come up separately or later you can.

A pre-trip meeting isn't possible at this point but we do have things to talk about like how many canoes we've got, what vehicles are going, who's bringing guitars, etc. So let's have a conference call on Wednesday at 5:00 pm, that way everyone can have a beer in front of them during the call and it will be more like a real pre-trip meeting. The dial-in number is (866) 506-1416 and the Passcode is 615 726 7381

No way to know what the Red River is going to be like until we look at it. Even if it's safe to float we'll have to decide if it will be low enough to find somewhere to camp. Yellow Creek is looking really promising though. The gravel bars look so good from satellite they may not get past your porn filter.

The locals call it "Mother Nature"


"Mons Veneris"


Friday, October 16, 2009

The early forecast is calling for more of the same on the trip itself.

But a wise man once said: it's the rainy ones that you remember.

(Which is maybe why Stuart's not returning our phone calls).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maybe the third straight day of rain is a good day to talk about those contingency plans.

We will still go to the farm house on the Red River Friday night, no matter what. But if the Red is too high we will go to an alternate river nearby for the canoe trip on Saturday and Sunday.

The idea is that if we get on a small, shallow stream (which you normally would avoid in the fall), it won't matter how much rain we've had. If it rains more, we'll just find a smaller, shallower one. In theory we could accomplish the same thing on any river if we put in far enough upstream.

The problem with moving upstream, though, is that a lot of middle Tennessee (and Kentucky) rivers still have old mill dams across them on the upper stretches. And they are treacherous. We once almost drown Brother Jack and a perfectly good labrador retriever trying to portage around an 8-foot dam at flood stage. On the Red River we only have about twenty river miles above the farm house before we have to start dealing with mill dams. You also are likely to see blowdowns and sweepers all the way across the river if you start way up near the head waters. Nothing a two-man crosscut saw can't handle, but still a pain.

So if the Red River doesn't work out, the two most likely candidates will be the Gasper River and Yellow Creek.

The Red River (A) flows basically east to west from around Springfield to Clarksville, dipping in and out of Kentucky as it goes. The Gasper (B) is just on the other side of the state line, west of Bowling Green. And Yellow Creek (C) is west of Clarksville and flows due north into the Cumberland River at Cumberland City (near Land Between the Lakes). Both the Gasper and Yellow Creek are less than an hour from the farm house.

[Note: That issue of not being able to return to the main page after you click on something seems to have fixed itself. But if you want to enlarge something you can always right-click and "Open and in New Window" if it's still doing that].

Everything you need to know about the Red River you can find in the posts leading up to our aborted trips there in 2005 and 2006.

August 30, 2005 (watching for high water)

September 1, 2005 (the Bell Witch)

September 8, 2005 (the Red River and the Bell Witch)

October 13, 2005 (maps of the Red River)

November 4, 2005 (target campsite)

November 9, 2005 (understanding what the water levels mean on the Red)

May 1, 2006 (reprint of proposed campsite for Spring 2006)

May 2, 2006 (reprint of how to read the Red River gauges for Spring 2006)

Red River (fall)

The Gasper is characterized by rock ledges and has some really good riffles and faster water (between slow pools). It has steep hills and bluffs around it and would be pretty in the fall.

Gasper River (spring)

Yellow Creek is positively Piney-like. That means blue-green water and lots and lots of good gravel bars. Notes from a previous trip say "don't settle for a bad one." It qualifies as small and shallow, but not as small as the name suggests. One man's creek is another man's river.

Yellow Creek (summer)

Histocial footnote: In the 19th century, a group of idealists founded a utopian society on the banks of Yellow Creek in Ruskin, Tennessee. But ended up no different than the RRCC.


Friday, October 09, 2009

The Envelope, Please...

For the Fall 2009 trip we are going to: the Red River.

This may come as a surprise to some of you considering how uncertain the river conditions are. It's true that we have planned and canceled at least two previous trips to the Red because of water levels.

But we're feeling lucky and the river goes down almost as fast as it goes up, so it will improve our chances of floating this beautiful river if we commit to it. We also have some (not yet fully developed) contingency plans in the area so if necessary we'll get creative about where we paddle. More about that later.

The strategy will be to go up Friday and be in a position to assess the river on Saturday morning. As you know, that system works best when we can stay overnight without having to get the tents and gear out.

It worked great on the Green River trip when we stayed at the turkey hunting lodge on Friday night...

And when we stayed at The Barn on a Friday in Spring of '08 we were able to redirect to Dale Hollow Lake on Saturday morning when the Sequatchie was still flooded...

So we'll do the same thing on this trip, except instead of just a barn on Friday night, we're going to take over an entire Robertson County farm.

This is it:

We'll have the whole thing to ourselves for a night. Bordered on three sides by the Red River.

With the farm comes a farm house (sleeps 12, not counting the porches):

Also numerous out buildings, barns, a farm pond and a farmer's daughter.

Beverage Manager: even though you're generally opposed to kegs, this might be the time to reconsider.

Shooters: bring some clay pigeons and a trap thrower.

Here is a high level view of the Red.

We're in the square shaped bend 1/3 in from the right. If you want to Google Earth it (which is fun), search for Adams, Tennessee and it's about five river miles upstream.

It may be time to have a meeting.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Prodigal Father and the Artifact

(Part III in a series)

The third miracle occurred April 12, 2003 on the Stones River. Between Goochie Ford and Trimble Rd.

Although not directly related, the first sign that something special was going to happen on this trip came during the shuttle. There was a zebra grazing near Halls Hill Rd. - right there in the middle of a Rutherford County pasture.

On the river, it was only a seven mile float and we were deliberately trying not to hurry. ("The hardest part is to get slowed down." Goodbye to a River, p. 22.) So we stopped at a big, clean gravel bar about half way down with plans to say awhile. Even though it was April, Josh decided to take a swim.

Afterward, sitting on a cooler, air-drying in his boxers, he remarked that this gravel bar looked similar to one he remembered long ago with his father. They had found an arrowhead and Josh considered it a prized childhood possession. But one day, while cleaning up the house, his unnostalgic father threw it away. It remained a sensitive subject all their lives.

As he finished the story, Josh looked down, lost in thought. Then he noticed something sticking out of the ground.

"Fucking-A," he said.

Right between his feet, half buried in sand, was a beautiful flint indian arrowhead. And at that moment, the Prophet Josuha was caught up in a rapture and he began dancing about the gravel bar clad only in his swaddling clothes and continued to exclaim these famous words over and over:

"Fucking-A, Fucking-A, FUCKING-A!!"

And he rushed home to his father and they were reconciled. And they killed the fatted calf and said "It is a miracle!"


Above there the old Painted Campground lies, twenty or so acres of worked-flint chips, potsherds, burn-marked hearthstones . . . There are dozens of places like that along the Brazos, traditional stopping places that, judging from the thickness of the midden in some of them, must have been in use for unknowable centuries before white men came, by tribes in migration or seasonally encamped. If you poke around any of them long enough, you can usually pick up a couple of arrowheads to rattle against each other in your pocket until a nephew or a friend's son begs them away from you - though, by the very principle of middens, most of what you find is fragmentary or faulty.

I've never heard why they called it the Painted Campground. In '72, settlers trailed a raiding band to it, waited till dawn, and were easing in on the their bellies when one of them lost the steel control that tactics require and let out a berserker yell. Fast wakers, the Indians hit the brush, leaving behind them a few artifacts, some stolen horses, and the distinctively long-haired scalp of Chesley Dobbs from down the river, whom no one till then had known to be dead.

Goodbye to a River, pp. 64-65.


Monday, October 05, 2009

The Miracle of the Brother Bear Coffee Cup

The Club’s second miraculous event occurred on the Piney River trip. Back when we pulled the Vanderbilt trailer and corn was free.

We were going to leave Nashville early on Saturday morning for the ride to Hickman County. We gathered in the driveway as we always do, with the usual departure activities: drinking a little coffee, waiting for Tim. But you can’t tie a Trucker’s Hitch with one hand, and sometimes coffee cups get set down and forgotten.

Eventually we pulled out, and an hour and half later we arrived at the last Ser Sta Gro before the river, just up the hill from the put-in.

After re-icing the beers, and just before driving down to the river, one among us exclaimed – “Behold the Brother Bear coffee cup!”

And all the Club members cast their eyes where he was pointing, and they began to wrench their clothes and lash themselves, for there upon the roof of of the truck they saw the Brother Bear coffee cup which had traveled over ninety miles across interstates and bumpy county roads without falling. And all exclaimed – “Verily this is the second miracle!”

And now every year on the same day the members drink from the cup and sacrifice a virgin’s virginity and all members now address each other as Brother Bear when they meet. And the miracle led to a new era of harmony and brotherly love in the Club.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Miracle #1 - The Blessing of the Beer on the Sabbath Day

(Part I in a series)

The first RRCC miracle occurred on September 21, 1997.

It was on a simple day trip on the Duck River. Put-in would be at Dement Bridge and the take-out on Hwy 41-A, which would be about a seven mile float. The weather was great. There had been a few light rains the week before so the water was up but clear. The upper Duck had just been stocked with Brown and Rainbow trout from the Normandy hatchery. Everything was perfect. Except...

It was a Sunday, and the future Club members on this trip had failed to buy their beer the night before.

At that time, State law prohibited liquor sales before noon on Sundays. Fortunately, with a leisurely (late) departure, they would be passing numerous Ser Sta Gros after 12:00 pm for beer acquisition on the way to the river. Unfortunately, they failed to account for that other peculiar institution of the Bible Belt: the dry county. After stopping at every exit on I-24, and searching the back roads of Beford County all the way to Lynchburg and back, the hard luck paddlers finally resigned themselves to a dry canoe trip and pushed off downstream.

About three miles into the trip, halfway between Dement and Hwy 41, they came upon Three Forks Bridge.

Although this bridge was known to be on a remote, rural highway, it was suggested that someone should get out and take a look up and down the road - "just in case." Jim Myers volunteered and climbed up the concrete stairs, then disappeared out of sight. He reappeared just a few minutes later, confirming that there were no beer stores on this highway.

But lo! What was it that Jim was carrying in his arms?

Vessels! Vessels of barley and hops. Cold ones, like he was returning from the wedding feast of Cana.

And they said unto themselves: Truly this is a miracle!

Some say it was an angel that Jim encountered that day. An angel who had too much nectar of the gods in Shelbyville the night before, and was puking his guts out in the gravel parking lot of Three Forks Bridge. They say that when Jim approached, the angel beseeched him: would Jim please relieve him of the remaining beers in the back of his truck? For they were causing him great pain and he was anxious to be rid of them. Besides, he had only minutes ago made certain vows and promises that meant he would no longer be needing this devil's brew so long as he lived, which "might not be long."

And so Jim accepted the gifts that the angel bore unto him, and the paddlers continued on their journey down the River Duck. And they drank of the Sabbath beer. And it was good.


Note: Three Forks Bridge is about two miles from the George Dickel distillery tasting room, which provided all of the inspiration and courage necessary for this reenactment.

To kill time while the river levels sort themselves out, today we begin a three-part series on the stories of divine intervention that are now part of our lore. Moments in the Club's past when natural law was interrupted by some unexplained force. Together they are "The Three Miracles of the RRCC."