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The Great Purden Lake Incident

It went something like this...

Years ago (23+) we went camping at Purden Lake in north central  British Columbia, a lovely lake surrounded by mountains and trees, sitting at the base of Purden Mountain ski hill, only 45 minutes from Prince George, our home at the time.

We had purchased our first boat and had an old camper that we used to escape from the rain and wind and bears. Our boat was a wonderful Campion 19 foot closed bow thing of beauty. It had a hot 302 V8 engine driving an OMC leg and normally brought me nothing but pleasure, but on this particular day, a lot of pain.

With 2 people in the boat at full throttle, the speed propeller installed and planed up for speed it would race along the water at nearly 60 MPH (100 KPH). With a few more people inside it it was a little slower but still had enough speed to elicit screams of fear from those sitting on the hot dog shaped inflatable 75 feet behind the boat.

Lets talk about that hotdog. The hotdog was an inflatable "hotdog in a bun" shaped tube that you sat upon, legs astride, like riding a horse, the boat pulled you and the hotdog behind it at high speed evoking screams of joy and pleasure from the riders broadcasting over the water with the Doppler effect adding some acoustical interest to those in the boat and on shore. I drove the boat and others rode the hotdog. The hotdog belonged to Ron and Cheryl (you remember Cheryl from the Christmas letter of 1998 don't you?).

As we whipped along the lake the hotdog would eject the riders if the boat driver was diligent in his maneuvering of the boat.  Once ejected the riders shot into the water and after shaking the water from orifices and hair they would remount said hotdog and go for a scream inducing ride once again. It was such fun. There's nothing that gladdens my heart more than listening to my wife and children screaming in fear and pleading for me to exercise some common sense. Push the throttle harder Bart.

After spending hours towing friends and family my wife decided that it was time for me to ride the banana. While it wasn't what I wanted to do, She Who Must Be Obeyed said it would be fun and all the other soggy water-filled people in the boat agreed with her, that yes, Bart would really enjoy riding that inflated yellow manufacturer of screams and joy. They were wrong.

Now I must say right here that the rule then and now is when doing high speed boating and towing people behind my boat there is no alcohol involved period. None. Not a sip and not a drop in the boat. Fishing and trolling on the other hand have different rules and I will tell a tale about Takla Lake one day, however for this saga it was an alcohol free zone. However the booze came into play later that night. Medicinal therapy...

By this time someone (me! momma didn't raise no genius it turned out) had decided that we should tie two ropes together and tow the hotdog with that newly engineered contrivance, the thinking being that as the riders were being turned in the arc by the boat it would increase the speed attainable and heighten the excitement of the ride. It was a success!

While I did not know how fast the hotdog would travel when in the apex of the arc, I knew it was fast. Very fast. I did not use the new found speed to thrill the children, reserving the newly discovered law of acceleration and mass for the adults; the friends and family that I love so much.

With Susan suggesting (ordering) that a ride on the hotdog was required for me I asked, "Who pray tell was going to drive the boat?" Fearing it would be Ron who was as invincible and bat shit crazy as I was, but Susan said that she would do the driving.  I was heartened at the prospect of her driving it since I thought she loved me and also I knew she was not crazy about going fast on the water or anywhere for that matter. Ha ha, ha! Wrong again! 

I think the 150' tow rope speed formula might have looked like this: Input your own numbers here...


We came to a stop and once I took the place of the rider and having grabbed hold of the "holy shit" handles Susan inched the boat forward to take up the slack.  Once the rope was taught she applied a little throttle and got the boat up on plane. I thought, "This IS a lot of fun!". It was as I was thinking this that I saw Cheryl (you remember her don't you) and Ron talking with Susan and shortly after the pointing at me and the conversation between them ended the boat picked up speed.  Fear crept in and the sphincter puckered....

As the boat began to gather speed she began to move the wheel left to right and right to left causing the hotdog, of which I was now part of, to begin to sway back and forth. Gently at first, call it tubing foreplay if you will, then picking up speed and energy, the swath became wider. It was at this point that I heard the engine rpm top out, a sound that I knew well and the boat was now at full speed. I began to cry. My inner drama queen came alive at that moment...

I was never mean enough to tow someone at full speed (um, maybe that is a bit if a fib) when I drove the boat and if I was to venture to the top of the throttle position, I would never put the tube into a swing at that speed, fearing for the safety of the rider(s); Susan held no such reservation. Now remember the two tow ropes tied together? This is when they came into play.

Once we were at cruising altitude I began to regain my composure as I realized Susan was not intent on killing me, in fact while I was skipping along the top of the lake at 50 plus mph she was going in a straight line and then ever so gently she began a turn that brought us in closer to the shoreline and in front of the hundreds of people that were enjoying a hot July long weekend at the beach.

She headed out towards the middle of the lake and I was having a great time 150 feet behind the boat, a little tentative, but enjoying it. Just as I was beginning to settle in and somewhat relax I watched as the boat turned hard to starboard, nearly 90 degrees to me. All I was able to do was utter a girly scream and tighten my grip on the "holy shit" handles once again. Fools go where angels fear to tread and you know my momma didn't raise no angel...

My alarm grew in intensity when I watched the boat and the evil bastards contained therein pass me on my right hand side, heading AWAY from me, like two cars on a country road, one heading north the other heading south.. I did notice my speed was dropping as she raced away from me and then the laws of physics took over. My sphincter tried grabbing the seat in anticipation of the wreck that was about to occur.

Once the rope tightened up the hotdog was yanked hard and then took off like a gut shot cougar. As I watched in horror the arc I was now riding through caused a multiplier effect to speeds unknown and I could hear the guffaws of the boat driver, the evil cackle of Cheryl, and Ron screaming at me that he has lost control of the situation. The gasps I heard were from those beach goers onshore watching this spectacle and then it got worse.

Susan now emboldened by her unerring command of my boat took the boat into another sharp turn and then proceeded to keep it going on a full 360 degree turn with me now screaming and pleading and gaining enormous speed 150 feet behind. I was still hanging on, trying to hold tight when to my dismay and utter horror I saw the boat wake a few hundred feet ahead and calculated that my current trajectory was going to have me crossing that turbulent swell of water in just a few seconds. I did not have time to ask for forgiveness from anyone. I was bawling uncontrollably by that point.

I have a very vague recollection of the next 30 seconds but what I do remember still causes me anxiety to this day. I managed to hang on through the first wave battle, but just as I was trying to get straight in the saddle I hit the second wave of the boat wake and got ejected like I was a passenger in James Bonds Aston Martin. From there the world slowed and the event played out in my reality like a John Woo directed fight scene, very slow motion. The light! I also saw the light!!!

I sailed across the water, then as the bullet-like trajectory surrendered to gravity I hit the water and began to skip like a well thrown flat ass rock. I skipped I am told at least 7 skips, and it wasn't a pleasant skip to my Lou my darlin' either. Each skip I took pushed parts of me further up into other parts of me that should not have been positioned so. It was jarring and the speed I was traveling did not allow for any sense of comfort or control.

Above my crying and the sounds of water being forced into me at a rate only seen when Hoover dam has its spill gates open I could hear the "Oh my God!", the "Holy shit!", the "Ohhh and Awwwws" from the witnesses onshore. Ron said it best with the "Holy fuck Susan I think you killed him!" Sounds travel well over water.

Just as I thought the worst was over, I remember putting my hand down, presumably to stop the nonsense. Nay, nay. It did not stop it. It just changed the mechanics of the motion and from a skipping stone I became Cartwheel Man. I began a cartwheel that is still talked about to this very day. I was told that people watching onshore screamed and gasped, babies began to cry and a couple of little old ladies fainted. It was like the intro to ABC's - Wide World of Sports years ago with ski jumper Vinko Bogataj's spectacular crash; The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat! Agony? You have no idea!!!

Epic cartwheel. Awe inspiring even. Ah 1, anna 2, anna 3, anna 4, anna 5, so many in fact that no one can tell with any degree of accuracy how many cartwheels I did, but we know the lake is 2 miles across at that point and I covered 3/4ths of it.

After what seemed like hours I came to a stop, held up by my life jacket I floated there, unmoving, incoherent (less than normal) and I listened to the screams, the cries, the "Oh my gods", the "Hey did you see THATs?", "Someone call an ambulance!" and applause. Yes, there was fucking applause, from shore and from my boat. Heartless evil bastards! Then above the din I heard someone scream, "That was fucking awesome! Do you think he's still alive?" I  think it was Ron and he seemed to care.

The boat idled up to me and I had not moved. Not because I didn't want to. It was because I couldn't move, I was just coming back to consciousness I think. As I was coming back from the Light and just having said goodbye to God who appeared to me during the melee, I looked up with bleary water filled eyes and stared straight into the face of Cheryl. She was laughing to the point of hysterics. Kind hearted bitch...

My swim trunks were tangled up around my ankles. I knew this because as I was floating along side the rescue ship I was patting myself down checking to see what parts were missing and when I reached the central part of my being, I was mortified to find there was no longer any covering. Wonderful I thought. Just fucking wonderful. Broken limbs, concussion, manhood missing and I lost a $20 pair of swim trunks to boot. What a ride, what a day. What am I going to tell the boys back at the shop?

Feeling further down to confirm the compound fractures in both my legs that I was certain I would find, I found my swim trunks, and, no thanks to my wife, I did not feel any shards of bone either. So I wrestled the trunks back into place so's not to give proof of my shortcoming to my friends, then I gathered enough strength to whisper, "Help me!" "Please help me!"

It took the three of them to get me in the boat, and once inside my fiberglass pride and joy I sat and shook uncontrollably, a symptom of post traumatic stress,  the rest of the evil bastards looked ashen and somewhat concerned, well, except for Cheryl, she just asked if it was happy hour yet?

I was greeted onshore by looks of pity - sincere and heartfelt, offers of medical aid and high fives. As I waded through the crowd. I was receiving the instant replay as seen from shore and it was with interest that someone told me that when I was launched off my ride the hotdog took off for the wild blue yonder and it hit the end of the rope 150 feet above the lake. Like a rocket he said! I was glad I brought so much joy to so many...

Back at the campsite I took to embarking upon an intimate relationship with Ron Bacardi, an accommodating sort, and Cheryls husband Ron feeling pain seizing his body from a hotdog ride or two of his own earlier that day, headed for royalty status with a bottle of Crown Royal. The boat was put away for the night, the campfire was lit, munchies and dinner were served, the kids settled in and so I threw the lid of the bottle into the fire.  I would not be needing it I was sure. I was right...

At some point I staggered to bed, assisted by the purveyor of pain, my wife, into our camper and fell fast asleep.  It was a few hours later I woke up to searing pain of indeterminate origin, once fully awake, I realized the pain was from all my muscles that had been torn apart and perhaps also the ill effect of the rum as it was being ushered from my body. At that time I noticed the sound of a monsoon like rain pelting the tin roof of our humble abode. The soothing sounds of the rain lulled me back to sleep, the furnace hummed and I was dry. And alive....

With bacon, eggs, toast, fried potatoes, left over steak, gallons of coffee, T3's and a few well mixed and medicinally correct Caesars we took on the next day, albeit rather more subdued than the day before and Ron and I reflected on the lessons learned. What the lessons were I can't remember, but I am sure there was something there to be learned, to be sure you, would have to ask our wives.

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