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Driftless (Entry by Scott and Todd)
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(Jun 20th, 2005) Last Wednesday night the Niesche boys, Joel and Mark, had a softball game in the nearby town of Baker. Todd and I consider ourselves to be some of the world’s foremost experts on pretending to be softball experts, and so we dressed in our least smelly paddling clothes and readily offered our services. We piled into the Niesche van with Cindy in the driver’s seat and headed on over. We got there and promptly started to act like professional coaches by leading the 4 early kids in a rousing game of 500. But the Baker team did not show, and so Joel started a rousing game of ‘how many times can I throw my glove over the high fence behind home plate’ which Todd and I supervised from the bleachers. .
Apparently the Baker team had decided not to come to the game because of the saturated, muddy field and neglected to inform the Wolverton team. The incessant rains had struck again—messing up someone else’s plans. But we were not about to give up on a good time so we promptly decamped to a nearby tetherball court where many fierce games were played.
Later in the evening, back at the Niesche’s, Warren and Cindy suggested we go for a horse ride. Todd and I readily assented and soon we were perched on top of two fine animals and trotting down the drive-way, with Warren riding his horse without a saddle—pretty cool. Scott got excited that he could make his horse go faster by squeezing his legs and soon was making a Mach-4 bee line towards Hudson Bay. After about a ¼ mile he decided to slow the horse down. Soon both horse and rider were in a state of some concern which quickly spiraled into all out panic and Scott was holding on for dear life. Finally he got control and was pleased to note that he hadn’t been thrown from the horse and still had all his limbs intact.
In our last journal entry we determined to take off the river and stay with the Niesche family until the river was dropping. At that point the river was expected to crest and recede to a point we felt was somewhat more safe and reasonable by today, Sunday the 19th of June. But the river consistently proved the predictions wrong and it has continued to rise and rise. A picture yesterday in the Fargo Forum showed a nearly submerged pedestrian bridge with a solid, river-wide 500 yard log jam behind it, doing little to bolster our spirits. The latest prediction is for the river to be at the level we want a week from now. We consulted with Jim Murphy, an intrepid paddler from the Fargo area who is very familiar with the river. Jim agreed that if we have the time to wait another week, our paddle down the Red would be much more safer and more enjoyable. And so our new goal is to resume our paddle next Sunday, 6/26. Hopefully this latest prediction is finally an accurate one.
On a long journey such as this we knew unexpected things would crop up. After setting aside 3 and a half to four months of our lives for this trip, and after planning it for more than a year and a half, it feels like we are suspended animation; characters stopped cold in their tracks. But though we aren’t currently traveling towards our final destination, this interlude is still furthering us along in our goal of experiencing the culture and history along our way. To be here, in the verdant green farm fields stretched far across the bed of a former inland sea, at a place off a dirt road that is off another dirt road, in a county of just 8,000 people in the wide open prairie, seems an appropriate place for waiting and for contemplation. To be at the mercy of natural forces and to be forced into a period of temporary stasis on a trip that is otherwise all about moving is causing us to have different feelings and interesting experiences. And so we wait, and try to make peace with waiting, while we also look with anticipation to being back on the water soon.
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