On the river: Dog day afternoon
August 20, 2009
There’s a riveting scene in the film “No Country for Old Men” in which the character of Llewelyn Moss, escaping from vicious drug runners, jumps into a river to escape. The bad guys release their hound, which makes a beeline for Moss, leaping off a ledge straight into the river. The pit bull, seemingly possessed, quickly swims after our man, getting closer and closer in the middle of the river.
A similar albeit less-theatrical scene played out one recent day on the Roaring Fork River. My friend Mark and I set out in two inflatable kayaks, a clever little vessel perfect for low water. Not long after putting in, we came across a bucolic setting: a home backed right up to the river, Tibetan prayer flags fluttering, the river gurgling. But then a dog, one that looked like it should have been on a Harry Potter movie set guarding something sacred, lunged from the shadows beneath the flags. Growling and barking, it came a few feet into the water, not close.
In past day excursions, I had joined in with my fellow rafters in howling and barking back at dogs taking umbrage to our passing, an immaturity perhaps borne out of beer or sun. Likely both.
And so it was no different this time. Until we realized it wasn’t giving up. The dog, alternately plunging through riverside grass and shrubs and the river itself, kept coming. About 500 yards downriver we were awestruck. My friend drifted closer to the river’s bank. The current picked up.
Finally, the dog made a last mad attempt at Mark, darting into the water and coming within a few feet of his boat. With the dog just behind, Mark made five furious strokes back to the middle, which was enough distance to persuade the dog to, at last, give up. Tired, it panted at us from the side, about a half-mile from where it first saw us.
“If you want to prevent people from stopping on your land, there’s no better way,” Mark said.
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In hindsight, I wonder what we would have done had that dog managed to puncture Mark’s ducky. We would have been screwed. As it was, Mark was soon yelling, “Do you want to duck?” Sure, why not? I looked ahead as he ducked, or rather laid back, as a small rapid jolted him upward toward a substantial tree branch and then under. Damn. I tried in vain to paddle a different line but was soon pulling the same limbo move.
Mother Nature, in essence, telling me to “lie down, be a good boy and I’ll give you a treat.”
Wait a second …