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190805 August 5, 2019


Rowing, Rowing, Rowing on the River
Don Wynn
LHS '67

    It is easy to get bored when you’re 17 years old and when you do, it is easy to get into all sorts of mischief.  During those times, it is always good to remember that a little mischief is not a bad thing.

    I was bored a lot when I was 17.  On one of those occasions, I was hanging out with my friend, Robert Brodeur just trying to think of something to do.  Suddenly we had an epiphany.  We were going on a kayak trip on the river.  Robert had a 12 foot kayak that we had used many times.  We could both swim and definitely had a sense of adventure.

    We talked about all the small rivers and streams in the area but decided that we had already had those adventures.  “What about the Tennessee River?” we said almost in unison.  “OK” but where on the river.  We started planning the logistics.

    We would “put in” at the Guntersville Dam in the morning and let the current takes us to Ditto Landing at Hobbs Island which we figured was about 12 miles give or take 5 or 6 miles.  Piece of cake for two outdoorsmen such as ourselves.

    We wanted Robert’s brother Jim to drive us along with the kayak to the Dam and to pick us up at some agreed upon time at Ditto’s Landing.  Jim had his own adventures planned for that day and didn’t want to do it.  After a lot of begging accompanied by a financial inducement, we were able to get Jim to agree to drop us off but not to pick us up.

    Now, we only needed to take care of the pick-up somehow.  Finally, I was able to get my mother to let me have the family car for the day.  We were all set.

    Bright and early the next day, about 10am which constitutes bright and early for teenage boys, we headed out in two cars.  We dropped my family car at the boat ramp at Ditto Landing then headed on to Guntersville Dam stopping along the way for supplies; drinks, candy bars and chips.  I thought we bought enough to cover us for our entire trip,

    When we got to the dam, Jim drove the car as close to the water on the north side of the river as he could. Robert and I jumped out, excited with the prospect of this adventure.  We loaded everything into the kayak and carried it on our shoulders like we had done many times.  When we got to the water’s edge just below the lock, we looked up to see Jim waving at us as he drove off.  I guess it was a good thing that we got everything on our first trip because there would not be a second one.  We waved at Jim before putting the boat into the water.  Robert took his position at the front of the kayak.  I pushed off from the rocks and stepped into the boat. James Fennimore Cooper could not have made that move any smoother than I did.

    We paddled out into the river.  In a little while, we determined that the current was not moving us as fast as we expected.  We held a meeting of our entire expeditionary force right there in the Tennessee River. The consensus was that the current was likely to be greatest at the middle of the river.  We turned the nose of the kayak south and started paddling for the middle.  Since the river is at least a mile wide right there, we were about 800 yards from the safety of the river bank.

    When we got to the middle, we stopped paddling, expecting the river current to take us the rest of the way.  After a while, we realized that the current wasn’t any stronger in the middle than it had been nearer the river bank.

    “Uh Oh, what now?”  Instinctively we knew the answer and started paddling in unison.  The little kayak picked up speed and we were pleased.

    The Tennessee is a big river.  After about an hour of steady paddling, it felt as though we had not made much progress.  The magnitude of our situation was beginning to set in.  We may have complained a little, but we continued to paddle.

    Just a few miles west of the dam, there is a turn in the river with a tall bluff on the north side.  As we got into that turn, we could see a tug pushing a bunch of barges toward us.  They were still quite a distance away, so we did not feel any peril at all.   Within a few minutes, we realized the tug was in the middle of the river too.  Just then, we turned toward the north bank and started paddling furiously.  We made our move in plenty of time and the tug passed us safely to the south.  Men working on the barges waved at us which we thought was pretty cool.  After all, we shared kinship as ‘rivermen.’  As the tug passed, the pilot came out of the pilot house and waved.  We were in the fraternity of rugged individualists and that sealed the deal right there.

    By then, we had been on the river for about 3 hours and still had most of the way to go.  We both realized that it would be tough to get to Ditto’s Landing before the sun went down. 

    After all the excitement with the barge, we were both hungry, so we decided to stop paddling and to have lunch while still drifting in the current, however mild it was.  Our arms were beginning to hurt from all the rowing, and we were beginning to feel the sunburn that would be intense the next day.  When we were done, we put all of our trash in a bag in the boat just like any other rivermen would have done.

    Realizing our situation, we paddled harder than ever, one on each side of the boat.  As we got tired, we synchronized our cross over so that we each paddled on the opposite side.  We matched power and our little boat stayed on a straight course.

    We were still east of Hobbs’s Island when it started to get dark.  By then, it was already past our expected time to be home.  I don’t think we were scared but I am pretty sure we were afraid of what the consequences might be.  The situation was made even worse by the fact that we didn’t have a flashlight or any other source of light.

    The sunset happened quickly, and we were in the middle of the Tennessee River in nearly complete darkness.  There must have been stars but there was no moon at all.  The day had been beautiful with bright sun and a few small clouds.  The night was just like that.

    Our eyes adjusted to the dark, but we still couldn’t see any detail.  We knew that we were approaching the east end of Hobbs’s Island and that we needed to take the small channel to the north of the island.  If we missed that channel, we would have remained in the wider, main channel of the river.  By itself that might not have been too bad, but it also meant that we would have to paddle up river against the current once we had passed the island to the south.  Our target, the boat ramp was on the northern bank of the small channel to the north of Hobbs’s Island.

    We paddled toward the north bank of the river to make sure we didn’t miss the small channel still headed generally west along the river. 

    We began to see very small lights along the river banks.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that fishermen were smoking as they fished.  We didn’t say a word and I guess you could say that we went into stealth mode.

    Sound carries on the water on calm nights so we could hear their muffled conversations.  They were talking quietly trying not to scare the fish.  At the same time, we were sure that the fishermen along the banks had no idea that we were so close to them. 

    As we got closer to the boat ramp, we saw a bigger boat that was just drifting as the occupants fished.  That boat has some very low power navigation lights but there were no other lights in the boat other than cigarettes.  We drifted past the making sure to make as little noise as possible as we paddled.  About 50-60 feet separated us but they never even knew we were there.

    Within a half mile or so, we were at the boat ramp.  The parking area was lighted, and we were both relieved to see my family car parked there. We drug the boat out of the water, hauled our supplies and trash to the car and stashed it in the trunk.  Finally, we secured the kayak on top of the car and headed home.

    Our trip had taken over 10 hours which was about 3 times as long as we expected.  When we got home, there was no panic and nobody had been looking for us.  They just figured that we would get there when we got there.

    Such was the life of boys growing up in the South in the 60’s.  We were expected to deal with whatever came up and most of the time we did. 

        Memphis, TN - Thanks to Don Wynn for sending in some stories to share with his classmates. It is always good to hear about some of the things we did for fun back in the days before video games controlled our lives. 

    I am trying out a new version of Name That Tune. Please let me know if you like the old one-song version or prefer the five-song one.

Name That Tune

    Here's last week's Name That Tune song:

Name That Tune 2

Point you mouse on the picture above and click on the little round arrow at the bottom left to replay!

    Jeffrey Fussell, LHS '66,  "This week’s mystery is the opening chord of the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.   Almost everyone knows almost everything about the Beatles. So here’s a little trivia: In 1965, a New Jersey band called The Knickerbockers released a song called “Lies” that used an opening very similar to “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. “Lies” was not a copy of the song, but the vocals sounded so much like the Beatles that it  prompted a short-lived rumor of Beatles involvement. Sadly, the Knickerbockers fell into obscurity shortly thereafter.

Others who named the songs:
Jim Jones, LHS '67
Jimmy Johnson, LHS ‘67
Judy Fedrowisch Kincaid, LHS '66
Linda Collinsworth Provost, LHS '66

I Want to Hold Your Hand

    There are so many really good songs from our teenage years with "give away" openings it would take forever to go through them one at a time. So, this week I offer you a collection of five songs to see if you can identify them. Not all of them are Rock and Roll so you need to put on your thinking cap and listen carefully. List the songs 1-5 when you email me with your answers. Also, let me know if you would rather do one song at a time or if you think five at a time is more fun.

Name That Tune


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:  Memories of Boot Camp

Don Wynn

LHS '67  


    There is always something in the weekly Traveller that causes me to remember something that I haven't thought about in years.  In the July 15 issue, Rainer Klauss wrote about his experience in Boot Camp for the US Army.  His descriptions were so vivid that I can see Ft Jackson right now.  Yeah, I know it's not the same place where Rainer went through Basic but it still reminded me of Ft Jackson anyway.  When I stepped off the bus at the reception center in Ft Jackson, like every other recruit, my life was about to change.  Forrest Gump must have been in my platoon because we took lots of long walks too.

Thanks to Rainer for his article and to you for the Traveller.

E-5-1 Forever

Subject:    What Fun
Linda Collinsworth Provost
LHS '66

    I am enjoying reading about your second career as a movie extra.  Sounds like fun.  We theater buffs are familiar with Michael Luwoye and some of us were fortunate to see him in Hamilton in New York.  How nice to hear that he was so gracious when meeting you.



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