Last night, Karl and I had plans to tackle steelhead waters on the lower McKenzie. The afternoon started normal enough, I met up with Karl in Springfield, got the gear together and shuttled to the Hayden Bridge ramp. When we got there, a couple of scuba divers were getting ready to swim out into the river on a salvage mission — sunken treasure.
They had an assistant in a short skirt watching over them — the first of several young women to show up at the ramp that evening. Turns out it was “bring your hot girlfriend to the boat ramp day” and Karl brought me by mistake.
So the scuba team heads out to search for wallets, guns, crack pipes, whatever it is that people drop into the river under Hayden Bridge in Springfield, Oregon — and I’m standing at the bottom of the ramp watching a steelhead boil a few feet out, trying to rig up. Karl is backing down and usually doesn’t need my help, so I’m not watching when the wheels of the trailer drop off the concrete eight inches or so and the driver side wheel busts off at the bearing.
Now, I say bearing because this amazing dude Chris who just happened to be standing at the ramp with us, said it was a bearing. I couldn’t tell what the hell had been holding that wheel on in the first place. The axle just looked like a gnawed off limb, covered in rusty Vaseline.
Karl and I stood there, wondering who in the hell we could call. I was imagining the trailer dragging an axle through downtown Springfield, sparks flying. Then Chris said he could fix it. Fix it?
Sure enough, Chris was a mechanical genius and he and Karl set to work getting the bearing apart, heading to the auto parts store and replacing the bearing for $14. He wouldn’t take a dime, but Karl is going to take him out fishing when the action heats up.
In the mean time, I’m doing my part, holding down the boat. I’m casting at the scuba divers (pretty sporting on a 6-weight), talking to some tweakers about snagging fish and how sweet it tastes to eat wild illegal trout, watching the parade of women going down the river in drift boats.
Then a lady comes down with a dog — a smallish mutt with some German Shepherd in her. She throws a rubber stick out into the river for the dog to retrieve. It jumps in but can’t see the stick. Lady says, I normally throw rocks at the stick so she can find it. I say, you want me to throw a rock? Sure.
I throw a rock at the stick — it’s way the hell down there. Old rocket arm — I’m pretty close. The dog is going into the damn rapid and is going to drown.
Now everybody is screaming. I’m running through the underbrush getting torn up because I don’t want to be responsible for killing the dog. The owner is calling the dog, but isn’t following me down the shore. I almost get it, but the dog decides it would rather drown than come to me and it kicks back into the deep swift current.
About this time, the owner decides to commandeer Karl’s boat. Luckily, Karl comes down the ramp, puts the lady in the front and sets off on a rescue mission. I wander back and try not to vomit as the dog slides further downriver, trying to get away from the boat that’s pursuing it.
Eventually, the owner gets on shore, wrangles the dog and leaves Karl to drag his boat back up the rapids. The owner gets back to the ramp to tell us the dog is all she has left in this world and couldn’t lose her, thanks us, and drags the dog the hell away from the river.
At that point, Karl and I have about 90 minutes till dark, so we do the drift and don’t catch shit. The end.