At 3:30 p.m. today I flung my rifle into the river. This was immediately followed by my body. This, like most of life, was more circumstance than deliberation.
I was feeling rather sprightly and adept, much like I would have felt after shooting a moose 20 or 30 years ago. But sadly, today there was a great absence of moose. And I am no longer as footsure as I was 20 or 30 years ago.
I had untied the boat, coiling up the painter as I approached it. As the current was strong, I had to quicken my pace towards the bank, taking that fateful (non-sprightly) leap onto the deck. The landing didn’t go so well, and in an effort to save myself, I inadvertently flung the rifle off my shoulder and into the river. Stupidly, my reaction was to plunge an arm in after it, thinking I suppose, that the rifle might be floating there, awaiting a rescuing hand. There was nothing for it but to jump in after it.
Thankfully, the water was only about 2 feet deep. I groped at the bottom and found no rifle. But the boat! It was adrift and even more of a priority than my trusty old 30-06. So, I floundered after the boat, grabbed the painter, tied her off, then retraced my steps upriver, in the water.
Now, over the years this family has lost a thing or two in the silty and opaque waters of the Yukon River. Once I dropped the fuel cap for my boat in 2 feet of water. I spent a good hour scouring the riverbed to no avail. One of my daughters was momentarily distracted while washing some mud off her shirt, only to turn around and find it gone. Another daughter lost a pair of pants the same way. The river gobbles things up and doesn’t spit them back.
Those were my thoughts as I rummaged around in this grey, swirling milk. I wondered how the pull of the 5-knot current might affect a rifle, whether things tend to get dragged to the deep or slide straight downstream. I worried about kicking it deeper, felt it best to start downstream and deeper, working towards the estimated point of entry. And I worried that whatever the effect the river was going to have on the rifle, it was going to compound with time.
After only a couple of minutes of frantic dredging, my hand blindly seized the precious tool! Not this time, Mr. River, not this time!