Let me tell ya ’bout the best friends…


img_20170128_102947685.jpgBrinn’s carpal tunnel and nerve damage to his elbow has worsened recently, so his surgeon has scheduled surgery for next Thursday. Two weeks out from surgery, Brinn started brining pork loins and preparing to smoke a feast so I called in the cavalry. As soon as I shared with our boating buddies that Brinn wanted to have a party before he goes under the knife, they immediately moved into action. You may think your friends are cool, but Brinn’s friends show up at the house with little notice bringing boats and whiskey.

After a five-hour drive, Terry arrived Friday morning to take Brinn out for a weekend of boating. The two sneaked in a quick afternoon Spring Creek run with Tom, where Brinn managed to forget his pfd and his helmet. It’s an awfully good thing we live so close to the put-in. Unfortunately not a one of the three managed to take a camera with them, so there’s no visual record of their scrapey run. Brinn left Ian at home in the care of Lee from the Mustard Seed Ranch. When I arrived home, I assumed I would relieve Lee of his burden and take Ian out with me to run errands, but Ian insisted that he would prefer to stay home with his brother. Man, and here I thought I had at least another couple of years to be the coolest person in Ian’s world. Rejection hurts. But in all seriousness, it makes my heart happy to see Ian have such love for his big brothers, and even more happy to see that love returned.

Once the weary paddlers returned from the water, Brinn went to prepping his bacon 16265841_1169919109723818_7494451037016177263_nwrapped duck jalapeno poppers (talk about the ultimate man food) while Terry went stir crazy. Brinn owes Terry big for his restless energy –it got all of his gear packed correctly for a Saturday trip. From there they decided they needed to make fire, because apparently the one already going in the wood stove was not enough. Out came the diesel can and a pile of unsplit logs in the back yard. Truth be told, it really was about time that we burned the Christmas tree.

img_20170127_201256033.jpgAs darkness descended, our guests of varying sizes arrived. We ended up with a houseful of five kids ranging in ages from two to I think eight or nine-years-old. This absolutely made Ian’s night. Jc brought Ian a hand-me-down battery-powered four-wheeler, which is exactly what Ian has been planning to save up for. I’m still not sure Ian has recovered from the shock of seeing the beautiful red four-wheeler arrive. Jc, you have no idea how happy you’ve made a little boy. Between the four wheeler, Ian’s tractor, and his gator, we had seats for almost every kid to cruse around the yard while parents migrated from the food in the kitchen to the chairs around the fire. While nothing can replace the sereneness of sitting around a campfire in the woods on the second night of a weekend camping trip, we came close to replicating this feel. We had good company, good food, good drinks, and conversation inevitably flowed about paddling, parenting, and even softball injuries to the knee.

While I have no desire to have more children, I can see why many parents try to persuade 16426103_1169919036390492_3060917692251805844_nme to have more so that my little one could have someone else to play with. Tom brought his son T-Rex, who is not nearly so little anymore, Jc and Crystal bought their sweet children, and Ben and JoAnna’s E has no idea that she’s only two and considerably smaller than Jc and Crystal’s bigger kids. E kept right up with the older kids all evening with no regard for the cold. I’m fairly certain that Ian fell sound asleep within minutes of the last child’s departure. Even better: he slept past 6:30 AM the next morning! Most of my close friends know from first person experience that I’m not a kid person. Mainly because I don’t know how to interact with kids or what to do with them (except with Ian –he has me extremely well-trained). But these kids are all awesome and did a great job entertaining themselves.

16387255_1169919153057147_6948614958651690557_nTerry, Ben, JoAnna, Jc, Crystal, and Tom probably have no idea how much gratitude I have for their willingness to leave home after dark and make the long drive to our little corner in Putnam county, but they all make Brinn smile, and that means the absolute world to me. This upcoming surgery has some risks that go along with it, and Brinn has understandably been worried and stressing over it.A night to chill by the fire with good friends is exactly what he needed, and these sweet people delivered in a way I will always appreciate.

Saturday morning brought with it a beautiful day, but very little water. The original plan img_20170128_103322202.jpgfor the guys to run lower Crooked Fork had to be scrapped, so instead they turned their focus to the Obed. In contrast with Friday’s debacle of forgotten gear and chasing water levels, Saturday actually managed to run rather smoothly. Ian and I dropped Brinn and Terry off at the Devil’s Breakfast Table by 10:30 AM and made our way to Nemo by driving up on the area in Catoosa. As shameful as it may be for a home-grown to admit, driving the area makes me so nervous. I don’t remember all the twisty gravel roads, and could end up in Oakdale just as easily as Wartburg. Fortunately we ran into some very kind TWRA agents who were more than happy to point us in the right direction. Having family in the area is a huge benefit when it comes to setting shuttle, and when Ian and I arrived at Nemo my dad was waiting for us. We left my truck at the bridge and my dad drove Ian and I to Grandma’s so we could spend the day with family without having to worry about trying to get back to Nemo to pick the guys up when they came off the water.

img_20170128_120213282.jpgAs soon as Ian and I rolled into Grandma’s house, he immediately asked her to make him some popcorn. Now my grandmimg_20170128_121530857.jpga is not exactly the cookie baking kind of grandma who gives out hugs and tells her grandchildren that they can do no wrong, but she is a great cheerleader for us to achieve great things and does make the absolute best popcorn in the world. I don’t believe that she has ever in her life bought microwave popcorn.Some of my fondest childhood memories involve that popcorn, and eating it still takes me back to those early years. After indulging Ian’s popcorn request, Grandma introduced Ian to a new part of her house this weekend: the attic. This new series of small rooms full of outgrown toys from my cousins over the years had Ian enthralled, so my dad and I slipped out for a quiet hike down to the creek.

img_20170128_141054820.jpgWhile Brinn didn’t get to paddle Crooked Fork, I at least goimg_20170128_135635527.jpgt to enjoy
its scenery and marvel at the beauty of the day. Despite the cold weather we’ve been having, the woods are absolutely bursting with life this time of year. The forest floor is a riot of color with bright red partridge berries contrasting with their glossy green leaves amidst the brown leaves left from autumn. Looking around the canopy provides a treat as well right now with mountain laurel bordering the trail and creek banks with dark green leaves for miles. With Ian’s arrival almost five years ago, it’s not too often that I get much time alone with either of my parents. And that is completely fine as they fully deserve to enjoy their time as grandparents, but I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to walk and chat with my dad for an hour.

img_20170128_103724966.jpgBrinn and Terry didn’t have nearly the excitement out on the water that they did back on the 2nd, but the quite tranquility and splendor of the river gorge seemed to leave quite an impression. It ended up not being quite a dry haired day as Brinn managed to go for a roll on one of the more awkward rapids with multiple diagonal current lines. Apparently Terry didn’t even laugh at him when it happened. Or take a picture of it. What kind of friend is that? While the majority of their run was made up of class IIs and small class IIIs, the two did manage to do quite a bit of scouting for future family outings. As they identified several promising campsites, we hope to be able to turn this run into an over-nighter with the raft and kids later this spring once all medical issues are behind us. Here’s a glimpse into their trip:

(But be warned. Apparently people with English degrees still forget to proofread before hitting upload.)

Brinn hopes to be able to sneak out Saturday morning for one final paddling trip before hisimg_20170128_100039152.jpg
life consists of bandages and rehab, but if the rain refuses to fall and he ends up pursuing dryer reaction this weekend, he’ll still be okay and my living room won’t be covered in wet river gear drying by the fire. Over the next six weeks of recovery, he’ll have warm memories of generous friends gathered around the fire sharing embarrassing stories. The next time we gather, I’ll be able to add some new humiliating stories of my recent adventures in physical therapy. Until then, we’ll keep on planning our future river trips together and reminiscing. Dear friends, we love you and I can’t thank you enough for bringing your amiable company to our small home. And of course there’s always that one jackass that shows up at every party…


About ashleekiser

“For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy Join us on our family adventures as I try to tell our stories rather than bore you with more online essays.
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