Installment 2 of this week’s blasts from the past series was written 1984. This piece clearly reflects my growing impatience with the frequent flooding that was happening in my hometown of Alexandria, Indiana during my high school years. I decided to take out my frustrations, at the time, by writing this little fantasy tale for my friends. Let’s get in the Way Back Machine and travel back to yesteryear to see what was on my squishy young brain.
By: Shane Phipps
“You know,” said one visibly bored young man to another, “it looks like we may be in for a little rain this afternoon.” “Yep,” came the reply from his friend, “but you said that yesterday too.” “Well,” said the first, “did it rain, or didn’t it?” “Yep,” his friend answered, “it sure did at that…rained hard too!” Scott’s forecast wasn’t exactly an act of profound prophesy, however, as it had been raining steadily for several days and showed no signs of letting up. But still, somehow, Scott felt a slight stirring of pride at his astute observation and Richie seemed more than willing to play along. Or perhaps he had grown so accustomed to the precipitation that he had stopped noticing it altogether.
Scott and Richie were not unlike the other youths of this small Indiana farming community in that they always seemed innately bored. It was late in June and they were on their three month summer vacation. Next school year they would be seniors and they could hardly wait! Oh, they realized that, even as seniors, they would probably still be bored, but the thought that they would be the oldest of the bored students thrilled them to no end! It was not uncommon for one or the other of them to say things like, “Man, senior year is gonna be great!”, or even, “Man, oh man, senior year’s gonna be great!” It was purely naïve whimsy but, being new to these feelings, it was the only form of whimsy they could muster. Richie seemed particularly afflicted by this bug of excitement and could often be seen daydreaming and muttering about what a great locker he had picked out for himself.
As the rain continued fall down in great sheets and the skies grew increasingly dismal, Scott’s thoughts turned back to the present. Senior year was one thing but at the moment, his feet were under water. “Hey look, the creek is out of its banks…looks like another flood…Rich?…Richie??” Scott looked around to find Richie had vanished. He looked down to find himself standing in over a foot of rapidly rising water. “Where in the world did Richie go?”, Scott wondered aloud. “This is disgusting!”, Richie lamented, looking around at the rising tide of brackish water, “one flood recedes and another takes its place!” Scott began to fantasize about the wonderful weather he had heard about out West, I’ll bet it never rains like this in Illinois, I’ll just bet, he thought with envy.
Just then, Richie’s thoughts were on more pertinent issue like, How far has this current taken me?, and, Wasn’t that the neighbors mule that just floated by?, or, Is that a carp in my jeans or am I just happy to be here? Richie chuckled at his predicament. He was one of those rare individuals who could find humor in the midst of traumatic experiences. Indeed, racing down this raging torrent, clutching a cottonwood branch for a floatation device, would have probably been great fun had he not been starting to drift out of consciousness.
Scott was beginning to worry. It had been several minutes since he had last seen Richie and he began to realize what must have happened…after all, this wasn’t the first time Richie had been swept away by flood waters. Geez, Scott thought, every single flood and Richie is gone. It is so predictable! Last time he ended up all the way over in Tipton County, although he did bring back that cool sweatshirt from their fair with the pictures of the hogs on the front. Scott had a sickeningly intriguing urge. In fact, he couldn’t believe what he was considering. Suddenly, he was overcome by the desire to jump into the flood waters and follow after Richie. Color me nuts, Scott thought, but I am going in! He jumped in with abandon and grasped a buoyant looking cottonwood branch (the branch of choice for in-the-know torrent riders).
Richie was regaining consciousness and realized that he had become entangled in a low hanging branch. He had no idea how long he had been out but he had a pretty good idea that he was very wet and very cold. He struggled to get to the bank but as he worked himself free from the snarl, a strong undercurrent swept him off and back down stream. He desperately looked around trying to place his whereabouts but nothing looked familiar. And the stream seemed much wider now.
Scott had now been adrift for over an hour and had long since given up hope of catching up to Richie. He probably made it to shore a long time ago…he is a veteran at this, Scott thought. He spotted a low hanging Weeping Willow branch and managed to get a purchase on it and, after a tremendous struggle, crawled himself up onto the muddy bank where he collapsed in an exhausted heap.
Meanwhile, Richie felt as if he was hallucinating. This is crazy, he thought, I keep feeling like I am smelling Filet Gumbo and I am not even sure what that is. Looking around, Richie noticed that the creek had turned into a huge river and the trees along the bank were draped by what appeared to be Spanish Moss. He also noticed several shanties and shacks along the banks. Richie was never sure what the difference was between those two types of dwellings, but he had always strangely insisted upon drawing a clear distinction for reasons that were not clear to him. He was fond of saying, “My grandmother was born in a shack and raised in a shanty, or vice versa.”
Scott, now beginning to recover from his own wild ride, began to walk around to gain his geographic bearings. The rain was finally letting up. After a quick perusal of his surroundings, he estimated that he had drifted over 5 miles to the southwest of town. He was pretty disgusted with himself for his fool-hearty act and was almost completely drained of energy. Still, he faced a long hike to get back home, so off he trudged. Bedraggled, Scott got home late that night and quickly changed out of his wet clothes, slumped into bed and immediately fell into an exhausted slumber. Richie had completely slipped his weary mind!
The next morning, Scott was awakened suddenly by his mother’s frantic voice. “Scott, do you know where Richie is? His parents just called and said he didn’t sleep in his bed last night and they haven’t seen him or heard from him since yesterday.” Scott’s heart sank! “Oh my God!”, he exclaimed. He proceeded to tell his mother about the flood and how he assumed Richie had clawed his way to shore (as he always had) and had fallen into bed like he had done.
Within an hour the town was swarming with emergency crews and volunteers combing the creek banks looking for any sign of Richie. After an exhaustive, all day search, not a sign of him was turned up. Richie’s parents were crestfallen and inconsolable. As darkness began to fall, the phone at Richie’s house rang. Richie’s mother ran to it, bracing herself for the terrible news she expected to hear. It was the Louisiana State Police. They had found Richie, alive and well, in the Mississippi Delta lowlands! He was being put on the next flight to Indiana.
The next day two visibly bored young men sat together on a porch swing. Richie was wearing a cool new sweatshirt that said “Welcome to Cajun Country” across the front. “Looks like we may be in for a little rain this afternoon,” said Scott. “Shut up!”, said Richie.