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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

He said I saved his life on the Apple River.

Long, long ago and far away, my sister and the younger members of her family-of-choice (a desertion which hurt our mother) let me tag along when they went river tubing. This would have been about fifty years ago, when I used to think of myself as a playful human river otter so I was excited to go, and joined their car caravan out of St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota to one of the tubing concessions along the Wisconsin/Minnesota border to rent my inner tube. Nowadays they have towable watertubes, multi-person tube chairs, tube lounges, tubes with tow hooks for booze-boxes, and all of that in every color of the rainbow. Back then the tubing concession rented out black, patched-up inner tubes salvaged off of old vehicles, and we were happy to get them.

It was a long, lazy afternoon ride on our inner tubes down the Apple River, as we floated in our group flotilla, sometimes together, sometimes drifting apart. The river was shallow enough to feel safe, but swift enough to move the lush green landscape by at a pleasing pace, it was mostly woods but some farmland also. At various points along the route there were basketball hoops installed onto trees where people tossed their beverage cans to collect in nets below. Many missed the targets, especially as the day wore on and more drinks were consumed but those were simpler times, and that was how it was done. I never drank or doped myself when on the water for safety’s sake but also because I never wanted to dull the joy of being there.

As we neared the end of our float everyone started to get very excited about the scary waterfall at the end, calling to one another, “Hang on tight.” “Hold your breath.” “Don’t worry.” “Worry, a guy drown here last week.” There was a lot of laughter and squealing. I happened to be riding along next to the youngest member of our group, a dopey, lackadaisical preteen, who was adjusting himself for the ride over the waterfall when he suddenly slipped off of his inner tube. As I rode past him, I saw him several feet under the water, pale and still with his arms out limp, doing nothing to bring himself to the surface. I grabbed my inner tube with my legs, grabbed his inner tube with one arm, and reached my upper body as deep as I could go into the water to grab a handful of his hair. With a whole body lurch, I hauled him back up to the surface. He sputtered and flailed himself back onto his inner tube and rode it over the waterfall clutching it like a turtle clutching a big black egg. I rode over the waterfall after him. It was too scary. In my opinion the waterfall was highly unsafe, and it took much too long to bring me back to the surface. I did not like the sensation of helplessly spinning over and over in the tumble pool below the waterfall. I emerged breathless and anxious to get my footing. When I could stand up I turned to watch for the boy. He eventually popped up, caught his loose inner tube, and we swam in to the exit. As we pulled our heavy inner tubes up onto the riverbank, he turned to me and said with round, frightened eyes, “You saved my life, I was lost.” It was “My pleasure.” This is the first time that I have told this story from my life.

I heard that the Apple River no longer has a tumble pool under its waterfall, that it no longer even has a waterfall, that the waterfall was filled in years ago. Photographs on the internet show otherwise. More likely the tubing ride route is shorter now, I imagine it with catch nets to ensure that humans do not go over the waterfall. Now, as the Apple River flows from Wisconsin (put in) to Minnesota (take out), it would still be fun to go tubing on it, if I were able. From the tubing concession websites that I looked at, it draws neo-hippies, throwback hippies, families, and friends alike.

Strange, strange note: After the boy who almost drowned and I returned our inner tubes to the tubing concession, I realized that my sister and her family-of-choice were nowhere to be seen. Then the elder sister drove into the parking lot and picked up her little brother. She told me to catch a ride with the concession shuttle back to my car at the put-in, as they were all ready to leave now. They must have gotten out of the river earlier, and only the boy and I did not see them go.

Caption: He Said I Saved His Life On The Apple River

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018

Caption: Apple River-Anonymous Internet Source-703ee1b84883986bb7ceafd89e819cef.jpg

My Microsoft digital agent/virtual assistant Cortana attributes this image only as

“best guess this is: Down Apple River Tubing In Wisconsin”.

(After these little rapids came a wide, deep stretch of river, then a humongous waterfall that sucked you and your inner tube deep down under, spun you around and then just as your lungs were beginning to squeeze, popped you back up to the surface where you would exit onto the riverbank. Rumors persisted that someone never popped back up, and eventually the waterfall was filled in.)

Caption: Apple River-Anonymous Internet Source and cropped


My Microsoft digital agent/virtual assistant Cortana attributes this image only as

“best guess this is: Apple River Wisconsin”.

(This isn’t me but this is how I felt that day.)

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