Tubing with the Homeless

IMG_6647Never underestimate the stupidity of boys in large groups, and by that I mean two brothers. Chase, 19, and Porter, 17, are not dumb kids. You might even call them smart and talented, until they go outside, and then it becomes obvious why I pray for them every morning, every night, and often in-between.

A couple of weeks ago they were four-wheeling with a small group at a friend’s cabin just outside Park City, when everybody’s eyes snagged on the property’s private zipline. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m personally keen on ziplines and whitewater rafting, and pleased to see my kids follow suit. However, after Chase got his first motorcycle, I became truly tiresome repeating the mantra, “All The Gear All The Time!” and in general really thought I had imparted the critical importance of using the proper equipment. Sadly, the zipline harness was not to be found, but not to worry, they came up with a rope and a piece of wood. What could go wrong?

With each run down the line, they did something they called “improving the process.” Chase claims he remembers calling the last incarnation “a death trap,” but apparently Porter didn’t hear and ended the run on his back, one foot swinging free, and the other straight up in the air, still trapped in the slip noose that had been rigged as a foothold. He returned home with a limp, but rejoicing that he had just missed falling into the patch of nettles sprawling under the line.

On toward evening, they put away their rope and their stick and headed for home. Unfortunately, they were caught in a hard mountain rainstorm, their little car surrounded by big trucks going way too fast for the weather. Chase saw the danger and drove carefully, but couldn’t avoid the sudden pool in the road that sent them hydroplaning at 50 mph. Luckily the angels were there, and Chase regained control before causing a pileup. Later, Chase said, “I was legitimately nervous,” which is Chase speak for EEEEK, although that noise may have come from me.

Normally boy + water = joy, and possibly a little mayhem, water on the road being an unfortunate exception. There is a reason we have a thousand stories concerning pirates of the seven seas, while poor old Robin Hood appears to be the only pirate of the forest.

For instance, several years ago, Chase, Porter, and company were at a large amusement park repeatedly riding Rattlesnake Rapids, one of those giant water rides with rough water and round boats where you’re tossed and twisted, and almost certain to come out rocking wet underwear for the rest of the day. Somewhere in the middle of the chaos, Chase stood up and yelled, “We accept immigrants!” It is Utah after all, so some pioneering boy made the leap, and they were happy to have him. Water brings people together.

Yesterday evening Chase, Porter, and the usual group of friends drove out to the Ogden River for a little tubing, only to find the bank dotted with shopping carts, mostly manned by their homeless owners. But the kids were focused on the river, lovely with lush vegetation, idyllic overhanging trees, and fairylike weeping willows skimming over the water; the kids and the homeless each appearing to exist in separate dimensions, bordered by the river.

The first run down the river went smoothly enough as they formed a little flotilla, each holding the handle of the next tube, and battling the enchanting trees and water plants which proved to be heavily infested with spiderwebs, and insects looking for a free lunch. As Porter was flinging muddy foliage at Chase, he figured out that the trick to avoiding the spiders was to scrunch his backside deeper into the water so the weeping willows couldn’t graze him. This was such an improvement on the process they all returned without a single spider bite, though it didn’t address the ragged rocks snarling up underneath, and the result was rather akin to ending a zipline on your back.

Most of the homeless paid them no more mind than the scenery, but somewhere between the rocky rough water and the spider infested bridge, there was one homeless man in a state of chemical bliss, sitting in his shopping cart and idly strumming his guitar. “How’s the river?” he called to them. They returned the appropriate noises, though it was clear he expected no response. That would have been the end of their interaction had not their second trip revealed a buried treasure.

By the end of the second run it was getting darker and chilly, so the group had just decided to scrap their third expedition, when Porter spotted the glint of a shopping cart under the water. Of course, they better drag it up. It took a bit of doing, but they finally had it out, covered in river muck, dripping water weeds, and sporting one wonky wheel, a derelict from Office Max.

The homeless went nuts.

At the advent of the shopping cart, two dimensions crashed together as though they could truly see one another for the first time. Suddenly the homeless took a keen interest, watching, commenting, and rumbling around as the kids deflated their tubes and loaded them into the cart, Porter climbing on top as Chase pushed. The man with the guitar was beside himself, leaping about until he up and jumped straight into the river from pure excitement.

As the kids made their way back to the put in, the homeless concluded their assessment, and the spokesman yelled, “Our shopping cart is better than yours.”

Even the homeless don’t think they have the proper equipment.

Their carts were stolen from Walmart.

One Comment on “Tubing with the Homeless

  1. Very entertaining. I’m glad they all made it home in one piece.

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