Friday, December 25, 2009

On Christmas Day, what could be better than the 1975 Mother's Day Funfest

Author's note: This tale has been told before by Fred, and without doubt published in the Austin Chronicle, as was his habit, under the title, "The Great Mother's Day Massacree" I'm simply recounting the experience from MY viewpoint.

We were all involved in some capacity with the melodrama, "Secret of the Mine" with our local community theater. I was playing a school board member, while my wife was Lulu, a saloon girl.

A young member of our group, who will recognize herself if she reads this, will remain nameless in this story.

On opening night, we were backstage, and the young member of the group was in costume. The director had written in a part for her as a "master of ceremonies". She grabbed me by the shirt front, and we stood there motionless (except for her trembling hands) as she recited all her lines in my face!

The show went rather well, I think, that first weekend, and on Sunday, since no matinee was scheduled because it was Mother's Day, Fred, his wife K, my wife, KR, and I had planned a canoe ride down the San Gabriel

K and KR transported our combined total of six kids down to my mother's house in Austin, and brought back some delicious deli items for lunch. After lunch, we put the canoe into the river, and started our trip downstream. Our goal was Marie's house, about seven miles by road, and maybe eight or nine miles by river. We had been to a cast party at Marie's house the night before, and knew she still had some left over beer in the keg.

We had had rain during the days before this trip, but it was not raining then, although there was the typical overcast, which we normally ignore unless it's doing something more.

About half way to Marie's house (Marie also lived adjacent to the river, downstream from us, in Jonah), we began to notice bits of wood and tree branches floating along with us. About three-fourths of the way to Marie's, there was a low water bridge at Mankins Crossing.  When we reached it, tne bridge was not submerged yet. By then, we were aware that the river was rising, but we were almost there, weren't we????

A short distance past the bridge, we pulled over onto a shelf to "think about it". As it happened, Dr. Otti, one of the faculty at our local high school, was standing at the top of the bluff above our shelf, watching the river. We asked him how it looked from up there, and he mentioned that it was coming up, but not a lot. OK, we couldn't be more than a mile from Marie's, so, "Let's go!"

Before we'd gone a hundred yards from the shelf, Fred, who was in the bow, called, "Let's turn this sucker around!", and as he said that, I was looking almost straight UP at him, past the girls, who were seated between us. The water was really beginning to "pitch and roll".

And then, we were all in the water, holding onto the canoe from outside the gunwales. KR was not a swimmer, so we made sure she got back into the water-filled canoe to hold on from inside. Then Fred and K swam to the south bank (Marie lived on the north bank).

KR and I continued on with the canoe, edging toward the north bank, where many low hanging branches kept us occasionally ducking under water, until I was finally able to grab a sturdy branch that could stop us, and WE LANDED! We tied the canoe to the branch, and climbed the bank, to find that we were on Marie's land, and less than a quarter of a mile from her house!

We quickly crossed the pasture to Marie's, and had a beer! While we were settling in, thinking it would be hours before we would see Fred and K, Marie mentioned that she'd found the young "Master of Ceremonies" asleep behind her couch in the morning, but she had left by now. The girl was definitely one of us now!

While we were waiting for our fellow travelers to find their way across the river, I walked down to the Jonah bridge with Marie's son, who was visiting. We found that the river was flowing about six feet above the bridge, and cascading with at least a ten foot drop to the water below the bridge.

I think I decided then what a foolhardy stunt we had pulled. If we hadn't caught that branch which stopped our forward motion down the river, Grandma and Grandpa might have found themselves with four kids they'd never expected. The Jonah bridge was only a couple of hundred yards downstream from Marie's.

We'd hardly gotten back to Marie's, when a panel truck pulled up, and let Fred and K out. They had quickly found a ride with someone who was well acquainted with the county roads, and he'd been able to get them from one side of the flooded river to the other much quicker than any of us had expected!

Before the gu'ment messed with it, our river sure was a lot of fun!

On the second week's performances of the melodrama, KR was very concerned that her skimpy costume could never hide all the bruises she'd gotten on Mother's Day. Another of our group, our Mickey Finn, assured her that the bruises just added to her character!

I still get a little thrill when I think of that young "Master of Ceremonies", who has gone on to make a performance related career for herself out there on the Left Coast.


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