My brother Lewis and I have been fishing on the
White River in Arkansas every fall for the past eight
years. We try to do something different or go to a
different section of the river each year. Last year
we decided we would try camping this year –
we would go in early fall when it was cool and not
likely to be raining. I had not camped in over 23
years – it might be fun!
Turns out it was not horrible! In fact it was pretty
good (see White River Outing). I would even say we
had a “perfect” camping trip! I guess
the stories we told when we got back were too good.
I could see the faraway look in my wife Jenny’s
eyes as we weaved the camping story – each meal
better than the one before – each trout bigger
– chilly mornings were forgotten – three
days with no bath pushed aside – crappy instant
coffee and big mouth crows completely forgotten!
It is just shy
of a two hour drive from our house to Mountain
Soon it was evident Jenny would not rest (or let
me rest!) until she visited the glorious spots we
were talking about. Not her fault, with inviting photos
and the stories about a perfect campsite and great
biscuits and warm fires and trout jumping into the
boat – who could resist!
I knew she would not be interested in several days
on the water but a one-nighter would fit the bill
just right. Even though this was suppose to be a low
stress “come as you are” camping trip,
I was up bright and early Saturday morning –
packing all the stuff we might need for a camping
Do you know what the difference is between packing
stuff for a one night trip or a five night trip? Nothing!
If I wanted to show Jenny how Lewis and I camped –
then I had to take all the same stuff. Fortunately,
Jenny was into it and helped me slide Chunk Box in
the back of the truck and load the tent, chairs, table,
queen air mattress, queen sleeping bag, cordless air
pump, etc, etc, etc, pretty much filled the back of
the truck! It only took a minute to hook the boat
up and with a last load or two of girl stuff we were
|Rains two days earlier
left running water in the streambed just below
It is just shy of a two hour drive from our house
to Mountain View, AR. The people who live around Mountain
View will tell you if you visit there three times
you will stay! I don’t think that is entirely
true because I have been there lots of times and didn’t
stay – yet. But of course it is still too early
to say I will never move there!
We stopped on the way just north of a town called
Heber Springs to pick up some firewood. Just outside
town there is usually a big stack of firewood under
a sign that says “Free Fire Wood”. It
is mostly pine logs five inches and less in diameter
and a couple feet long – left over from some
logging process I imagine. Anyway – I am happy
they put it out for people to use. Thanks! We got
a night’s supply of wood and continued on to
Mt Olive Access – arriving at 13:47:32 hrs.
mile upriver from camp was a big rock shaped
like the bow of a ship. For some odd reason
we called it “Ship Rock”.
By 14:30 even the camp was set up. Tent up, bed ready,
fire ready, Chunk Box ready….it looked good
too - setting there ready to serve! Rains two days
earlier left running water in the streambed just below
the camp. The melody of the running water combined
with the water flowing over nearby shoals to create
a sweet lullaby! The river was up a little –
but just a little and it was pretty clear. The sky
was solid blue – not even a wisp of a cloud
could be seen. It looked like Jenny was going to get
a taste of Heaven!
I was giddy with excitement when we launched Hawbuck
at the ramp about 100 yards upriver from the tent.
Time for some excellent trout fishing! Lewis and I
found a couple good fishing spots the last time we
were there. Just ½ mile upriver from camp was
a big rock shaped like the bow of a ship. For some
odd reason we called it “Ship Rock”. Right
below the outcropping was deeper water that seems
to hold a steady supply of good trout. We motored
above the outcropping and drifted down – enjoying
the warm sunshine and fresh air. It took about 30
minutes to drift past the camp a little ways and then
we motored back up to Ship Rock to go again. On the
second pass I decided to anchor beside the shoals
just below our camp. That place seems to hold particularly
good numbers of nice trout.
| My eyes went wide
when I realized we were taking on huge amounts
I normally only anchor from the front in moving water
– but Jenny was not into dropping heavy anchors,
so without a thought, I slid a brand new Navy Style
15 lb anchor over the side and tied it in the scuppers
beside my rear seat. I have never used that style
before so I didn’t really expect it to hold
in the swift water. I did not pay it any mind when
it slid across the rocky bottom like other anchors
– slowing but not stopping our rapid drift.
You could see the rope shake as the anchor bounced
off stuff on the bottom.
In seconds I forgot the anchor and focused on getting
in a few accurate casts before we passed the shoals.
I remember a nice tug on my line – I set the
hook like always – it was a good one!
Then without warning – WHAM! Something jarred
the boat hard and then jerked the transom around with
great force and speed! Then for no apparent reason
Hawbuck’s right aft gunnel suddenly dipped below
the surface! My eyes went wide when I realized we
were taking on huge amounts of water! We were sinking
- FAST! After glancing forward to ensure Jenny was
wearing her life-vest, I realized the anchor had snagged
on the bottom and was now quickly pulling us down
into the frigid waters!
As I struggled
I was aware I only had another second before
Hawbuck would be under – maybe lost forever!
I immediately reached for the half-hitch knot and
frantically struggled to untie the line before the
rising water completely filled the boat. Frightenly
quick, the icy cold water was up to my waste and then
my chest and was reaching my face as I sat doggedly
in my seat - fighting the simple knot to release the
As I struggled I was aware I only had another second
before Hawbuck would be under – maybe lost forever!
I ignored the pain in my injure left thumb and finger
(from clamp making) and put the last of my strength
and will into untying the knot. Just as the rushing
water reached my eyes, the stubborn knot came loose
and the back half of Hawbuck popped up like a cork!
With weak knees I slowly moved forward in the tipsy,
water filled, boat taking care to stay in the middle
to keep her upright. It was then that I noted Jenny
and our dog Roy Rogers were both high and dry in the
forward section! They were watching me with amusement
that seemed out of place considering the recent danger
I had placed them in. “Is the water cold? It
looks cold. Ewww, don’t touch me with those
|Ten minutes later
I was standing in knee deep water beside Hawbuck
– now that everyone was safe my focus turned
to bailing her out before dark.
When I was building her I wondered if Hawbuck would
float with one of the hulls full of water –
yes she will! I glanced back, pleased to see the transom
and gunnels were unharmed and above water, the motor
was high and dry as well – self rescue would
be easy enough. Before I could start bailing with
my hat and hands, a boat pulled up behind us carrying
my tool bag and other stuff that had been (unknown
to me) floating down the river.
I had just switched over to a waterproof boat bag
a couple of weeks before and was very surprised to
learn it floated even with the weight of the tools.
I thanked the Good Samaritans and accepted their generous
offer to tow us the hundred yards upriver to our camp.
Ten minutes later I was standing in knee deep water
beside Hawbuck – now that everyone was safe
my focus turned to bailing her out before dark. I
did not know if the motor was under long enough for
water to get inside the carb, but I could see the
top of the motor hood was still wet, and Jenny said
at one point as I struggled with the anchor line the
only thing above water was the top of my hat! I don’t
Chunk Box was
open and ready for the evening meal. Mmmmm,
hot coca is always great on a starfilled night
- especially after a nice cool swim!
I was a little chilly – the water was around
50 degrees, but vigorous bailing kept me warm. By
the time the boat was dry, the sun was setting low
on the horizon. It sets early when you are down in
the river basin – and as soon as the sun hits
the rim it gets real cool that time of the year! I
was wearing nearly all the clothes I had with me!
My spare shirt was lying in the bottom of the boat
– I brought it along in case Jenny got cool
on the water. My good hiking boots would be wet for
days – and worse than anything – my underwear
was wet! I hate wet underwear!
So we did what all modern mountain men do –
we headed to Wal-Mart to get more clothes and shoes!
An hour and a half later we were back at camp - it
was solid dark and I was wearing warm, dry, clothes.
The campfire was lit, the lantern was glowing, and
Chunk Box was open and ready for the evening meal.
Mmmmm, hot coca is always great on a starfilled night
- especially after a nice cool swim!
Articles by Larry Pullon