Continued from PART 1. Please check it out if you haven’t read that one yet!
Enjoy Part 2
I used all my strength with help from Gary and a few others to drag the tubs into position. We were going to construct, a dam. Sure, we have built a few before out of grass sod and rocks and wood. All of these things were scattered around us. I was going to use it all. I got two friends to start hauling all the wood from the old house to the creek. I had another stand at the top of the bank and start breaking off huge, thick squares of grass sod. I borrowed a few five-gallon buckets, *coughs*, from places around the trailer park and got to work myself.
Buckets upon buckets of clay were gathered with both of us carrying a half of bucket of clay per trip. I stored the clay in the water just as the water deepens leaving the Crab Catching Place and into the swimming hole. I dumped it all there. Sure, the water turned quite cloudly and we had maybe a twenty percent loss from the stream washing the clay away. I don’t know how many pounds of clay we had. Gary and I each did about thirty trips to the clay mind and back. Filling a five-gallon bucket halfway, each. So, a lot of clay.
We were surrounded by gravel and sand. The earthen banks, the creeks gravely sand, the grass sod… I saved the best surprise for last and didn’t tell anyone else what I had planned…
My friends all thought this was a grand idea. The last few dams we had built lasted two or three hours before the water got too high and went over the top of them and to the sides. Well, dams built by children have a lot of leaks! *smiles*
We had a blast tearing them down and watching and feeling the water flood into the swimming hole for what seemed like hours, the water level rising quickly by two or three feet or about 1 meter. We would swim for hours in the deep pooled water and dive off the banks into the now very deep water.
If you look at the crudely drawn picture above. You will see where construction of my Super Dam took place. My mind wouldn’t stop planning and at school and at home I drew countless plans on paper. From our previous dams, I knew the water was just too strong to not shove it all down in a matter of hours. My dad showed me how braces held up walls and the floors of our house. SO I figured, I can brace the dam also.
Are you still with me? Yes, I decided to build braces. I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
I started grabbing the long pieces of busted up concrete and bricks. We had four pieces of two concrete parking blocks. You know… The ones they put at the end of car parking spaces in some parking lots. We had two busted in half. Those things took three kids to move, even busted up.
Construction began in the middle of the Crab Catching Place. The creek is less than a few inches/centimeters deep and about four foot wide. I drew a line on each side of the creek, from bank to bank, right up to the high bank walls. I laid out my plan and all the kids listened intently, leaving out the final step in my plan, they didn’t need to know that yet. I sort of lied really. I told them we were using only two tubs in the dam. The other was for something else. I can’t quite remember what I said. They believed me anyway and went to work.
The dam took Friday afternoon and all day Saturday and Sunday to construct. We first started with the holes. We dug about a foot down from bank to stream. The water flooded these man, or rather boy filled valleys, quickly. We placed huge moss covered paving stones on end into these holes every few feet. Then a very old, large and thick piece of plywood was placed on the bank’s wall to the creek.
While my friends dug the holes, the mad scientist that I am started working on the cement. I figured the same amount of everything sounded good. So, in a bucket, I threw in clay, water, sand, dirt, and rocks. It was amazingly consistent with what my dad’s cement looked like and I was getting very excited. I made a small brick to let dry overnight but still started making loads more.
Yes, you guessed it. I filled in over half the trench with homemade cement and then grass-sod and then dirt. I had them push all the dirt up so a bank formed covering the back with the bricks sticking up and the front. The wall was about four foot or just over a meter high. We packed it all down with our feet. It was only sticking into the stream about six inches.
Saturday came and our wall was still there. No neighborhood bullies tore it down. My homemade brick was solid and hard on the beach of the creek clubhouse. The homemade cement was a success in my head. As an adult, I wouldn’t build anything reliable with it! *laughs* But as a child, I was building skyscrapers and bridges in my head.
The big clawfoot tub was next. It was the prize of the show. I had two friends start the other trench while I mixed up cement. Gary and someone else started rolling and pulling the bathtub into position. That took awhile and we all had to stop and help at one point. It sat a little distance ahead of the first wall by a small amount and it started filling with water, fast. So I figured I would make another small wall-seam to cover the crack to stop water from going through. We dug into the cricks sandy bottom and hit bedrock. So it wasn’t in very deep. I used bricks and sod and more cement to hold it in place.
Water rushed all around our young feet, only inches deep, we all took pleasure and had fun building. Water fights ensued and we went to Gary’s house for, what his mother always liked to call, refreshments, for lunch.
The sun shined hard and bright and even though we were in the water all day long, we were dirty and sunburned, all of us. We worked hard, the heavy claw foot tub, now on its side and filled with about 4 inches of water, was a sight to see. I finished the board to cover the crack and started working on a few more for the other tub and board for the opposite bank.
Sunday came and worked increase. I started showing everyone how to make the cement and everyone started covering parts of the dam with it. I filled the fiberglass tub with bricks, sod, and homemade cement. It started to float away and be pushed by the water. We used more bricks and I filled the heavy claw foot as well. It was something I probably should not have done! *smiles*
Both tubs were in place now. The water was starting to rise a little. The dam was taking shape and the current picking up. If you stood back and looked at the dam, on the right starting at the very high bank wall, was a four-foot tall wall that led into the stream and butted up against a claw foot bathtub that protruded across the creek over half way. Then… a three foot or one-meter gap that the creek could flow through freely. Then another tub, this one fiberglass, butted up against another old piece of cement backer board screwed into a piece of plywood. That part of the wall/dam was only about three foot or one meter and was almost even with the tubs heights.
The dam spanned almost twenty feet wide!
Even though the creek still had a three-foot gap, the swimming hole was emptying quickly. The creek on the flow side was already a foot high. Soon the final board would be put in place. Right in the middle. The creek would push it into the tubs and it would finish our dam.
It was Sunday, late afternoon and we were all dirty. The trailer park street lights were about to turn on and all of us had a curfew of being home when they do, or we got in big trouble. Everyone left. Gary and I were standing there looking at the dam. I asked him to help me really quick and filled him in on the rest of the plan. It only took us about ten minutes. Soon everyone would see.
We grabbed the last piece of plywood and put it in position with a few bricks to help hold it up. It cut off 90% of the water. Sure, we had loads of leaks. But easily 80 to 90 % of the water was being held back. We both ran for home.
Tomorrow, after school… Was going to be an amazing day.
I was dressed for school in record time. I wanted to get down to the bus stop. I needed to get to the bridge. If the dam was working, 200 to 300 yards downstream, the water should be higher, right?
This is the part of the story where I think I can’t possibly express my concern about flooding peoples yards… sewers… etc… I was 10, I didn’t think about any of these things.
As I ran across the bridge, the first thing I saw was my friends, standing on the bridge and Gary saw me and looked at the water. It was easily four foot high. Though running clear… Most likely because it wasn’t storming and all the drain water and crap making the mud churn up, etc…
I was shocked. I didn’t think it would get that high… The bus came and I had to wait all day. I sat and watched the clock. We would be home by 3:40 PM, get home, kiss mom, go play, be to the Crab Catching Place by 4 PM. I was always the first one there.
A storm… A quick, twenty minute, thunder and lightning storm. It poured… Hard… I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. Of all days for it to rain. I was happy the storm was quick. It couldn’t have raised the water much, right?
On the bus, I was going crazy. Every stop that wasn’t my own, I would crane my neck way out the window and look at the traffic and practically push kids off. Gary was concerned about the rain also and we both practically didn’t touch the ground when our stop came up. With home on the radar, we ran, over the bridge and froze. The water was easily six foot higher… Starting to roar downstream.
I got home, kissed my mom, and was out the door. Everyone converged on the Crab Catching place at once. The dam was a waterfall, holding back easily three feet of water in its entirety. Water pooled and swirled along the dirt banks. Rocks and sod and dirt fell endlessly into the water. A huge part of the bank on the deep water side of the dam was eroding away quickly. The swimming hole side of the dam was no longer low and easily two foot higher from the previous day.
Mine and Gary’s last job the night before was waiting for me. It was even floating! I stole my mom’s big cork plug for our bathtub at home for this. I cemented it in so no water would leak into it. We tied two ropes from the opposite bank trees and tied them to the screw holes in the flanged side of the tub.
There, in all its glory, was my floating vessel. The fiberglass tub made a perfect boat. I waded through the water and was inside of it instantly. I looked at Gary and yelled.
“GET IN! We are taking this downstream as far as we can go.”
He didn’t even think, he didn’t scoff. The look on his face must have mirrored my own. This was a dangerous once in a lifetime moment that neither of us thought twice about. He was at my side in seconds. I yelled to my friends…
“You know what to do, right!? Take it down… Tear it all down.”
The gleam of power and destruction in their eyes matched the creeks yearning to be free of the dam. They knew what I was trying to do and they all hooped and hollered and yelled and we all swore and said things like, “Hell yeah…”
It wasn’t easy. We did a better job than most people think ten to twelve-year-olds could do. Two jumped into the swirling deep mass of water and mud and were slammed against the dam wall. They popped up and over the claw foot tub and looked at us.
“The current is really strong…” One of them, a girl, got stuck and almost didn’t come back up. She sat at the top of the bank coughing. The other three were boys and in their heads, this dam was coming down. They started pounding the boards the water started flowing faster and faster. Someone pulled up my corner brace. The water started pushing through at that point.
The plywood started to crack. The force of the water greater than anyone thought. The waterfall seemed to increase. It was like the stream had some sort of intelligence. Seeing where all the weak points were and attacking them with all the force nature had given it.
The other piece of plywood started to crack. The next part happened quickly. Our tub boat started to rise. The current started to speed past us and the ropes that held the boat in the middle of the stream were now pulled tight and straining. You could hear the thin nylon stretching and moving on the trees.
Everyone stopped and crawled onto the banks. Everyone knew what was going to happen very soon. Everyone was safe!
Except for two young boys, sitting in a bathtub, in six foot of rushing flood water.
I pulled out my pocket knife and started cutting the ropes. Gary turned to me and started freaking out.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“We are going for a ride, hang on!”
I have to say, a divine sense of irony and timing occurred. Just as I cut through those ropes, the dam walls busted out. The tubs remained in a stream but the wood walls were destroyed, a two-foot wall of water rushed our way!
Water slammed into the back of the tub. The tub rushed forward so fast that Gary and myself were knocked to our butts below the edge… I pulled myself up just in time to see us being dumped into the swimming hole. It was a massive deep pool of water now. It churned with the current creating a small whirlpool.
Our boat sailed through unscathed. You could feel it wanting to join the rest of the swirling mass of water, sticks, and mud. The grass sod we used in the construction was swirling in circles everywhere. Boards were scattered all around. It looked like an old logging river there was so much floating. The sides of our tub/boat were being hit hard as we sped through the debris. Our makeshift boat sat deep in the water. Only a few inches separated us from taking on water and sinking.
As the water rushed us forward, I felt the wind on my face. That wind felt so good. The water we held back for so many hours reclaimed the crick… creek… river. It almost felt like a conscious effort. A living, breathing entity was there… The water’s lifeblood rushing through its veins, turning our craft left and right.
The bank erosion had caused a tree to fall into the water ahead.
“TURN!”, Gary yelled…
“I CAN’T…”, I yelled.
No rudder… I didn’t think that far ahead. No oars… Not even a big stick. There was dangerous debris all around. We didn’t dare stick our hands in the water… Right?
The tree was ten yards away, we both started paddling our hands in the water like mad. Both our hands hit sticks and wood and whatever nasty things that were rushing around us.
We were almost successful. The current started steering us to the small gap that wasn’t covered by the tree. we passed by but the back of the tub slammed into some branches causing us to spin.
We swirled in circles, five, six… ten times… both of us stuck our hands in again and slowed the swirling. We were facing backward now and the tub barreled down the stream bobbing up and down.
We were moving so fast and the clay mine was near. It was such a rush. We were having the most fun and terrifying time two kids can have without being killed. The danger never crossed our minds till it was too late. We didn’t want to risk swimming for the shore.
The clay mine was deeply covered by the mass of water. The banks were high and the water just didn’t seem to want to stop. How far had I backed up the creek? How many miles of creek, crick or river had I artificially held back for almost twenty-four hours?
The wind was like a drug. I remember feeling the want and need to keep feeling it. To go faster…
I felt something cold and looked down. My mom’s cork had sprung a leak.
“WE’RE TAKING ON WATER!”, I yelled… Gary’s’s face turned so pasty white, he could have been dead.
I pushed so hard on the cork to put it back into place, I pushed it all the way through. Yeah, that’s right. We were barreling down a river now, in 10 feet of rushing flood water in a boat that was sinking. I shoved my heel over the tubs plug hole and held myself up on the edges of the tub. The water slowed dramatically and I cut my foot a little on the old sharp fiberglass.
I saw it, the freeway. The creek opened up wide at the freeway. (I should have drawn the picture better for this part.) Not too far, fifty or sixty more yards. I could see it now. The water was spilling out and over the rock.
We slowed some and you could see the water level going down by several feet already. As the flood made it to the freeway bridge, the area was designed to catch the overflow of the creek when the storms flooded it. The creek went under the bridge and on both sides was a very large area filled with gravel and dirt.
Ten yards, I could see now, all the gravel and dirt was covered. The sound of the cars on the freeway filled our ears and our boat started to sink. As the crick emptied into the freeway bed of gravel, our boat ran aground. The sliding fiberglass bottom scrapped hard against the rocks vibrating our boat and sending shivers up our spines.
We sat and watched the water level drop and in twenty minutes the creek had returned to basically normal. We stepped out and soon we were surrounded by our friends and a few other people who saw us. Everyone asked us questions.
“Were you in danger? Aren’t you glad you didn’t sink? Was it fun…?”
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I remember it very vividly. It was probably near the top of my list as one of the most dangerous and stupid things I have ever done!
I don’t regret any of it!
Until the next adventure. I hope you liked the ride and my sharing a bit of my childhood.