Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chuggin' Down the River

Right on cue, the day after mentioning The Mircale of Roy in the Log, we had an actual Roy sighting yesterday.  We were behind a bright blue Mustang convertible with Titans license plates and a UT sticker.  We still weren't sure it was him until we saw the driver was wearing one red glove.  We tried to ask if he was going to be on bass this fall but he sped off.

Rob and Kirly's "other" band is headlining the Full-Moon Picking Party for Warner Parks this Saturday:  If you mention that you're a member of the Rebel Rivers Canoe Club they will let you in for $20. 

If you haven't been able to decide on a personal cup you may want to consider a fresh new idea coming out of Knoxville called butt chugging.  Our in-house engineer, Phil, has developed a variation of the system just for river travel, where the tube runs through the drain hole in a canoe seat, freeing the canoeists hands for paddling.   Since Roy's a UT man, maybe this will finally get him to commit to the Fall Trip.  

Tennessee frat suspended following ‘butt chugging’

By Jenna Johnson

Early Saturday morning, an unresponsive University of Tennessee student was dropped off at a medical center with a blood alcohol content that local police say was “well over .40,” the point at which death can occur. How did the 20-year-old student get that dangerously drunk?

Campus police went to the student’s fraternity house, Pi Kappa Alpha (aka Pike), to find out. They found several males intoxicated or passed out — and this scene, as described by a Knoxville police spokesman in a Monday statement that was obtained by The Post: “Upon extensive questioning it is believed that members of the fraternity were utilizing rubber tubing inserted into their rectums as a conduit for alcohol as the abundance of capillaries and blood vessels present greatly heightens the level and speed of the alcohol entering the blood stream as it bypasses the filtering by the liver.”

The act of getting wasted in that way is also referred to as “butt chugging,” “alcohol enema” and, well, “completely idiotic.”

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that campus police also found “bags from wine boxes, some empty and some partially empty, strewn across the halls and rooms.” Gawker has since posed the question: “White or red, do you think?”

Earlier this week, the university and Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity administratively suspended the chapter for 30 days, pending an investigation into the allegations. In a statement on Tuesday, a top Pike official deemed this an “unfortunate, isolated incident” involving “a small group of individuals.” He added that the incident “is an opportunity to increase the public’s awareness of what appears to be an unfortunate and extremely dangerous practice by some young people today.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Will You Do When They Call Your Name?

In the bend where we will be camping, the Jack and Harrington Branches both enter the Duck River from the north.  

There hasn't been a sign like that since Roy sawed through a log with his grandfather's crosscut saw for the first time.  And found his name in the heart of the tree.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Early Returns

Alright, we've got the Where and the When and we already knew the the How and the Why.  So the only things left are the Who and the What.  Who's going and What's cooking. 

It is our understanding there will be a top secret meeting of the Kitchen Committee this week at a top secret location - someplace "on the city's Western borders" that has an outdoorsman's hunting and fishing theme and serves big fishbowls of Gerst.  Wednesday at 8:00 pm.  So we'll share the report from that when we get it.  As for The Who, just the out-of-town commitment list is already impressive.   We have RSVPs from far flung places like Chicago, Canada, Cuba, Memphis and Primm Springs.   So don't be the guy who's left behind.  

Hale had been going partway down the river with me till business and his wife's opinion got in the way.  He glared at the equipment stowed and tied into the canoe.

"I wish ..." he said, and didn't finish.  He said:  "You call from One Eighty.  Maybe I'll drive out and float with you a couple of days."

I said:  "I'll call.  You won't come."

"There won't be any ducks," he said.  "You saw those on the hatchery ponds.  They don't like the river when it's high."

"All right," I said.  Getting in, I collared the pup to keep him from scrambling ashore, and pushed away.  Hale yelled something as I swept into the bubble-hiss of the rapids.  It was fast but smooth, and spewed me into a long flowing pool below.

Goodbye to a River, p. 25

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Plan Emerges

Studying the images we just got back from the RRCC satellite, we discovered some unexpected things that may solve all of our trip planning problems.  

First, the Duck River Watershed mileage chart is wrong.  It's actually over six miles from Leatherwood Bridge to Littlelot Bridge - so that will slightly extend our too-short trip.

Second, our take-out in 2011 at the McEwen's farm was farther upstream from Leatherwood Bridge than we thought.   Here's the aerial view that shows the farm, and you can see the triangular shaped field down by the river where we loaded out:

If we put in there in November, we'll get to paddle a full 1.5 miles before going under the bridge that we had been using as our starting point for calculating mileage - so add that to our trip distance as well.

Running all that through the RRCC abacus, the new total from McEwen's farm to Littlelot is 7.5 miles - a reasonable distance. 

Now here's the best satellite picture of all:

A veritable Horn-O'-Plenty of gravel bars, just one mile upstream from where we would take out at Littlelot Bridge.  So, while not an adult sized serving by any means, we can count on paddling at least 6.5 miles on Saturday which should be enough for the leisurely approach we want to take on this trip.  Plus we can put in and take out easily (and legally) both places.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pluck 'Em In and the Trickiest Trickster of Them All

Continuing with the river access discussion from thing we could do is put in upstream of, and paddle past, where we took out last year.  The DRW access list shows a put-in called "Pluck 'Em In" two miles above Leatherwood Bridge.  It is right by the Natchez Trace, basically behind the Ser Sta Gro we stopped at in Shady Grove. 

This one:

That would make the float a couple miles longer and could work, depending on where the good gravel bars are.   The disadvantage is that we would be repeating some of last year's trip, which we don't like to do, and it's not a very easy put-in because it requires a carry and has steep banks at the river.  Here's what the trip would look like though:


Having said all that, it would certainly be proper for us to start a trip at the Pluck' Em In.   According to "The History of Hickman County, Tennessee", written in 1900 but sounding eerily like a Pete Feldman blog, it has been "the scene of many a revel":

Rufus Coleman was the best fiddler to be found in Hickman County in the early days. He clerked for William Coleman and Powhattan Gordon, who, about 1830, had a store situated on the south bank of Duck River near the old ferry landing . . near Gordon camp.  At Coleman's store, Ben Wilson, of Leatherwood, sold whiskey; and just above, on the lands of George Church, were two race courses, one a half mile in length, the other a mile. This section bore the suggestive name of "Pluck-'em-in," and was the scene of many a revel in the 1820's and 1830's.

In 1825 John Skipper had a stillhouse on Jackson's Branch. Richard Smith was probably the first to sell whisky in the village of Shady Grove, but this was long after the notorious "Pluck-'em-in" had gone out of existence. George Grimes had a saloon at Shady Grove in 1854. The laws were not then so stringent, and men, while under the influence of whisky, seemed to have less of the brute in their nature than has the average drunken man of the present day. Men did not then fill up on mean whisky in order to prepare themselves to make murderous assaults upon their fellow-men as they do in this day of higher civilization.

During the existence of "Pluck-'em-in," one of its frequenters was Robert White, a note gambler. One day there came to George Church's race course a stranger riding an ugly, "slab-sided," bobtailed bay horse, with mane roached, like a mule. The stranger was shabbily dressed, and the questions he asked about the horses and horse racing showed him to be entirely unfamiliar with the sport then in progress. He drank some and was very anxious to buy cattle, of which he was in search. He learned that there would be in a few days a big horse race on Josiah Shipp's track near Centerville. By going there he could see cattle owners from all over the county, and, in addition to this, he was told that he could see a very lively horse race. For this latter he did not care, but, although an additional twenty miles' ride would be rather hard on his horse, he concluded to go on to Centerville in order to buy cattle, of which he was in great need. He went to Centerville the night before the day on which the races were to be run.

The next morning he was one of the large crowd at the track; but by the demon, Drink, the quiet, inoffensive cattle buyer had been transformed into a swaggering drunkard, who wanted to bet on the race money which his appearance showed he could ill afford to lose. His condition was such that he could scarcely walk, and his faculties were so overclouded that he did not care which horse he backed. He just wanted to bet. He had seen other people bet at Church's track, and, so he said, he had as much money as anybody. His own old horse was hitched near by, and, mounting it, he, continuing his boasting, announced that it could beat anything on the ground. Remonstrances were in vain, and he, continuing to wave his money, soon found takers. He was, in race-course parlance, "an easy thing," and soon there was a mad rush for his money. Having come for the purpose of buying cattle, he had money to cover all money offered him, and, in addition to this, was soon betting money against watches, pistols, overcoats, etc.

When the horses lined up for the start, some of the more observant noticed that the stranger seemed to have become strangely sober in a short time. When three-fourths of the track had been gone over and the stranger and his horse were still well up in the bunch, it was remembered that nobody had seen him take a drink. When the stranger's horse won with ease, beating Grinder's horse, the pride of Hickman County, it gradually dawned upon those who had bet with the stranger that they had been victimized.

The stranger was Shilo True, the trickiest trickster of them all, and the missionary work that he did that day produced lasting good. Many saw the error of their way and never bet again. Many who that day bet with the professional gambler, Shilo True, afterwards became the most prominent citizens of the county. Two of his converts were Emmons Church and his father Abram Church, who riding back to Shady Grove without their overcoats, agreed that they would gamble no more. For years, whenever people saw the appearance of fraud, a cheat, or a swindle, or when they wanted to halloo, "Enough!" they simply said, "Shilo!" and were understood.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bitchin' Camaro

Access issues are always the #1 consideration when we're thinking about what section of a river to do. We have to find a decent put-in and take-out that gives us the right total paddling distance, and we need to know there will be a good gravel bar for camping.  The campsite, an appropriate distance downstream from the put-in, has to be protected from view of farmhouses and landowners (since that worked so well on Big Swan Creek).  For some reason, TDOT does not take any of this into account when they build their highway bridges, and even when the bridges are in good locations one or both of them might be fenced or posted.  

When we recklessly declared we were going to paddle the whole Duck River one section at a time, the decision making process got turned around.  Now the river tail wags the access dog.  One way or another we have to find a put-in and a take-out that will let us do the next section on our list. 

In Fall 2011, Vernon arranged for us to take out at the McEwen's farm, which is just around the bend from Leatherwood Bridge.   According to the Duck River Watershed access chart, the distance between Leatherwood and the next access downstream (Littlelot) is 5.5 miles.  Click the map.

That ain't far enough, even for those of you who thought the Current River paddle was too long.  If the good gravel bars are halfway down we might only be paddling 3 miles on Saturday which is barely over an hour of canoeing.   Actually we should know where the good gravel bars are -  when we were scouting for the 2011 trip in the Green Mule we finished up on this section because Littlelot has a boat ramp.  But scouting trips get a little fuzzy toward the end and it looks like we stopped taking notes.  So we don't know.

The next bridge below Littlelot is in Totty's Bend, a total of 12 river miles downstream of Leatherwood. 

But it's one of those fenced and posted kinds of bridges, and it's basically built into a bluff anyway. See below, and note the Pee Wee's reference:

So stay tuned about how we're going to do this.  Vernon's still looking and we're still thinking. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A couple of long term things we need to get out there so you can be thinking about them.

1.  Remember the personal cup policy and also that this is the trip we are eliminating individual plastic water bottles.   You have about six weeks to work on finding a good cup, and the same amount of time to get your head around the water situation.  For the former, you can bring two cups or really as many as you want as long as they are not disposable.  On the Current River most people had, or wished they had, a "hot" cup and "cold" cup.  The cold cup is your chance to show your style with something unique, which also helps distinguish it from all the other half full cups sitting on the Grumman late at night.  

For water, we can decide as a group how to deal with this but it probably means you need to bring canteens or jugs of water and either drink straight out of that or use your stylish cold cup.   We'll give more thought to this and discuss at the pre-trip meeting.

2.  Not making any promises, but we are willing to consider using some kind of system of permanently attached cam buckle straps on the canoe trailer.   Tying down the canoes is a bottleneck at the take-out and it would be good to be able to just throw a strap over it.   Keep in mind though that we have a trailer made for the Autobahn and we can't just hook a couple of black rubber bungees over the top.   There are other difficulties as well, like the fact that we have all different sizes and shapes of hulls, and what happens to the straps that are not being used because we have empty spots on the trailer?   And what is the failure rate on those things - are we willing to trust anything other than a trucker's hitch we tied ourselves?


Discuss among yourselves. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wussies, Pussies and Evil Motherf--kers That Can Rot in Hell

And that about wraps up our music discussion.  

Next week we'll get back into hardcore canoe talk, including the rather complicated take-out situation on the Duck if we're going to try to put in where we left off in 2011. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bill Monroe and the Stomach Steinway

Look at that song list now!  Fifty songs and counting and most of them river tested.  Which doesn't even count about two dozen more Dylan songs we can play in our sleep or any spontaneous improv by Jack.  We could be up to 100 by November and that's a canoe trip's worth for sure.

Also, for you bluegrass purists, check out the recording info on this record.  Did you know the squeezebox was once a key instrument in Bill Monroe's band?   Click to expand:

Turns out the accordion player was a genuine Blue Grass Boy in every way except one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Music Issue

People get ready.  On this trip, the #1 consideration for every planning decision we make is going to be creating as much opportunity as possible for making music.  It's something we've talked about doing before but we're going to follow through on the threat this Fall.  If you want to get any sleep you better set up at the other end of the gravel bar.   

Here are some of the steps we've taken to prepare so far:

1.  We have procured heavy duty "Conductor" music stands, replacing those flimsy wire ones that collapse if you look at them wrong.  We also got heavy duty music stand lights.   No more headlamps blinding the washtub bass player when you cue him up for a solo. 

2.  All of the chords and tabs will be printed up in nice, neat three-ring binders.  We'll avoid using that tiny todger font that is so hard to read at 2:00 in the morning.

3.  We're keeping the mileage short to ensure maximum daylight and merrymaking on the gravel bar.  Of course we'll be at Vernon's all Friday afternoon and night which will be prime jug band time as well.

4.   Rob is so committed to this cause that he is taking a sabbatical from kitchen duty to concentrate on drinking, smoking and guitar picking.

5.  Mr. Mister has been invited.

6.  Bob is always invited, but this time he's bought a tent AND a boat so it's looking good this year.  Dr. Sands is coming with his mandolin.

7.  We actually practiced once - and might do it again, although it does require planning around a two day hangover.

What you can do to help:
  • Join in - flex your golden pipes.  We will have all the lyrics printed up for you.
  • If you see a player with an empty cup, refill him.
  • Learn an instrument yourself:
P.S.  We will start populating the songbook link in the upper right corner again.   Next new song is "Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen.  Eddie Vedder played it with him this weekend and we were watching his hands while he was watching The Boss's hands, so we think it's Em, G, C, G mostly.   They both had a capo at 2 so make that F#m, A, D, A, if you're on accordion, harp or bass.


A radio was shrieking out that synthesis of the old simple Anglo-Saxon music with Tin Pan Alley and electric amplification that is usually called hillbilly, but not around there.  There it's just "music," and the neon-glaring tonks near the cities seem its most appropriate setting.  If you're from that country, you usually have an unwilling affection for it, having listened to its evolution.  Even twenty years ago it still retained a little of the old directness and innocence, but now the directness and the innocence have passed to not very direct and not very innocent people with guitars around places like Greenwich Village, and the country people take their music with heavier seasoning. 

Goodbye to a River, p. 71.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I Know What You Did Last Summer

So much to catch up on about the offseason that we'll have to do a full report at Brown's, but here are a few developments you should know about:

1.   The john boat leaks have been repaired for real.  The toothpaste and duct tape solution we MacGyvered on the Current River has been replaced with J.B. weld and epoxy.  It may leak again, but it won't leak there. 


2.   The terminally wobbly kitchen grate that has been run over at one too many put-ins has been replaced with a brand new sturdy one.  Kitchen guys:  if one is good is two better?   Now is the time because they are surprisingly hard to find and Bass Pro has them right now. 

3.  We lost a set of RRCC keys the size of your fist.  That left the trailer locked to the hitch, the cargo lids locked shut, the key to Phil's warehouse is gone, not to mention the dozens of other keys that we won't remember what they go to until we're standing by a gate somewhere scratching our heads.  

Josh solved the lock-out problem on the trailer with a circular blade Dremel tool and a twelve-pack.  The way that thing cuts through padlocks is a sensual experience.   If we just add a Honda generator to the packing list our river access problems will be gone forever ("if you're not trespassin' you're not tryin'").  And there's a barbed wire fence out on Big Swan Creek calling our name, too.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Where We're Going

The second question, the one that comes right after "Do we have a date for the next trip?" and just before "What's for dinner?" is always:   "Which river?"  

As a reward for the long, hard trek to Missouri in the Spring, and to keep a vow we made to ourselves last Fall, we are going back to the Duck.  The plan is to put in right where we took out at the end of the Fall trip, where we stood triumphantly in the field after everything was hauled up and loaded and declared that we were going to do the entire Duck River, one section at a time, before we die or the club dissolves, whatever comes first. 

Take-Out 2011 = Put-In 2012

The Promise

It doesn't hurt that this section of the Duck is barely an hour away - and just fifteen minutes from Vernon's plantation where we will stay on Friday night. 

So the Fall trip will look just like this, plus or minus a few river bends:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Two Month Warning

The Fall 2012 trip will be November 2 - 4. That's fifty-seven days of meal planning, map gazing, knife sharpening, guitar stringing, Bob Dylan's new record release and multiple pre-trip-meetings.   The only thing that could be better is the trip itself.  Especially the beginning - when the boats are loaded and the gear's shined up and ready to go and and the whole river is still in front of you. 

The philosopher store owner offered me fifteen dollars for the pup, and when I turned it down, he said he didn't blame me, and went out to commandeer a seat for me, regally, in a blue pickup truck that stopped to buy gas.  The two men in it were brown, lean small-townsmen headed out to a deer lease, and made room cheerfully for me and the pup.  They were talking about how they'd packed the eggs and whether the milk would keep without ice and such matters, the talk of women-tended men magnifying the maleness of a three or four-day expedition away from their women.  I'd talked that way myself, often, but listened now feeling different from them.  They let me out at the bridge, and good wishes flew both ways through the air. 

Goodbye to a River, p. 81.