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Flaming Gorge

The inner tube was flung out over the wake of our own boat with a wild jerking movement and I went skittering across the surface of the lake. Another boat passed, and suddenly I was caught between two boat wakes. The other wave shoved me back into ours, which launched me forward again, and the next thing I knew I was flying through the air, a trapeze artist without a trapeze.

The inner tube stopped going up at around 6 feet high, but I continued to launch from the forward momentum of my own weight. My mother later estimated I stopped going up at around 9 feet in the air before coming straight down again. The inner tube bounced merrily away as my dad circled the boat back around to come pick me up.

"Wanna go again," he shouted to me.

"Bob," I could see my mother saying to him, "she's got to be exhausted."

"YEAH!!" I wiggled and flopped down into the center of the tube. "But this time, go faster!"

I hadn't had that much fun in the water since I had been white water rafting through the Grand Canyon.

Flaming Gorge was a beautiful place. Several Air Force families had decided to get together for a camping trip that weekend and we put together a caravan of a half dozen tents and a camper. We spent a full day driving there it felt like, and by the time we arrived I was hot and sweaty. I couldn't wait to get in the cool water of the infamous Flaming Gorge.

My family had a boat. Chris Brown's family had jet skis, though I hadn't yet taken my wild ride on the one belonging to my mom's work friend, Dale. With everyone going, and the camp site by the beach reserved, it was bound to be a good trip. Besides that, Chris Brown was cute! His parents were friends with my parents, and just like me he often got drug along on the adventures whether he liked it or not. The difference was that I always loved adventure, especially with my crazy parents.

Dad steered the boat around taking me for another good ride before guiding the boat over towards the docks. He couldn't loose me again, and my neck was starting to hurt from the whiplash I earned on the last loop. I jumped onto the docks to help tie off the boat. We didn't have the boat for too long, but long enough to know what I was doing. I trotted about like a pro.

It was time for the next group to head out with Dad at the wheel. I was starving hungry, so I headed back to the camp ground to see if I could get a bite to eat. Surely someone was roasting hot dogs by then. A few white clouds rolled over the canyon walls as I walked towards the tents and camper.

The Coleman stove was out on the picnic table under an awning and Chris' mother was lighting it. When she saw me coming, she grabbed her towel and started to dash for the boat. She hadn't had a turn yet and really wanted to go. Chris didn't feel like it, so he held back. Secretly I was glad.

There were two other girls at the camp site. One of them had been in the boat with me when I made my daring launch into mid air. When she saw that, she decided instantly there was no way my father was going to get her in the tube. She went ashore when I did, never touching the water even with her littlest toe while on the boat. All three of us had an unspoken challenge to win Chris for ourselves. Girls are devious.

We stood around warming our hands for a bit, hoping the hot dogs would defrost enough to cook them properly over the stove on sticks. They were so frozen solid we couldn't pierce them with the wooden skewers we had. As we stood there waiting, I could hear my fathers boat driving off in the distance, bouncing over waves and making his passengers squeal with delight. A strange shift in the wind came over the camp sight just then.

Clouds from out of nowhere rolled in, blowing hard from the east following a bird in flight with speed and swiftness. A chill took hold of the air, icy hands reaching down from nowhere and cooling our wet bodies to the core. I shivered openly. Everything around us grew dark.

One girl decided to go put on some dry clothes and dashed for her tent. The rest of us ran for the motor-home not far away. We got inside just as the rain began pelting down from above, stinging our bare arms and legs in the last few strides. We huddled inside by the window, waiting for the missing girl to exit her tent.

Lightening struck not far away. Boats all over the lake started to race towards the shore. Suddenly I was worried about my Father. A bolt struck again, this time in the middle of the water down below. The entire canyon lit up like fire. For a brief second we could see the valley of trees and boat docks below us. With another flash of lightening, a large oak split wide open and splashed into the lake. Some of the boat docks ripped loose and began to float away. Signs bent over and young trees splintered like match sticks.

Hail started pummeling down. At first we didn't know what it was, but the noise on the top of the camper was deafening. We had to shout to be heard. Lightening cracked all around and sparked off of the lake like fireworks on Independence Day. Snap after snap they resounded, echoing off of the canyon walls. The sky grew darker by the second except where the lightening would provide a brief glimpse of the Hell growing up around us.

"Where's Cassidy," one of the adults asked. An unusually loud "crash!" tore open the side window on the camper and we all screamed. A chunk of ice the size of a tennis ball bounced away and landed on the ground not far away. We peeked around the corner towards the tent the missing girl had run toward. The tent had all but collapsed, barely standing on one side still. It was obvious by the pressure being exerted on one side that the girl was still inside. "Someone needs to go get her!"

I grabbed a towel and threw it over my shoulders. I was still wearing a swimming suit and a pair of shorts, my feet were bare. Chris handed me his flip flops and I slid into them. Then one of the adults opened the door and I took off through the storm at a mad dash for the tent.

"Cassidy," I screamed on my way, "open the tent, I'm coming in!" The front flap unzipped and I dove inside the tent. "We have to get you out of here," I said to her.

"But I can't! I'm scared!" Cassidy was obviously a few years younger than I was but stood easily a good 6 inches taller than me. I threw the towel over her head, grabbed her arm, and yanked with all my might. She tumbled out of the tent in a heap, my pulling on her arm the entire time. She gasped at the size of the hail, now falling all around us in chunks big enough to kill a grown man. With urgency, we dashed back to the camper and I shoved her inside by her butt. She scrambled to get out of the way - I was coming in right behind her. I leaped over her and the door slammed shut behind us. Large purple bruises remained on my arms for weeks after that. Cassidy and I both had welts on our heads from the hail bouncing off of the towel with such force it nearly caused us both to end up with concussions.

We waited out the storm and once we were convinced it had gone past, we emerged into brilliant, blinding sunshine. The boats still on the water docked for the day, including my family. Dad was fine, the lightening had hit within mere feet of them though and his ears were hurting pretty badly. Chris' mother threw up on the boat from the churning and rocking, but nobody was able to get out of the boat safely during the storm.

We tried to start the Coleman stove again, since the wind had blown it out even under the tarp. The tarp itself had blown loose, and while the adults tried to tie it all back together, Chris and I undertook the project of starting the Coleman. Cassidy huddled inside the camper, watching us from a distance. The ground was covered in balls of ice, from pea sized to soft ball sized. All of us had to be careful where we stepped so that we didn't roll right off our feet. Finally Cassidy ventured out.

The wind was still picking up in tiny gusts. The tarp wasn't easy for the adults to tie over our heads. Cassidy was having a hard time pulling the chunks of ice off of her tent, which had completely collapsed. When she finally did, setting it back up took the help of two more kids and another adult. The wind pulled my hair in front of my eyes.

Chris lit a match and sheltered it with his hand. The wind immediately blew it out. He lit another, and again the air had other ideas. He lit a third and I watched as the flame wavered to the right and finally snuffed. Smoke plumed upward. It was obvious Chris was getting frustrated. He lit yet another match and I tried to help shelter it from the wind. As we stood there trying to keep it burning, I watched the flame dance and lick at the atmosphere around us. The air was heavy with moisture. The clouds billowed and blew and the sun was slowly slipping away once more. This time as the match blew out, I watched closely.

"Chris, we have to get back inside."

"What? Why?"

"The wind is blowing the other way."


"The storm is coming back."

At hearing that, every head turned to look at me. Could it be that I was right? Fear showed in their eyes, but I began jogging over to the camper. I grabbed Cassidy by the arm and urged her to go with me. We jumped inside just as the rain started pelting the rest of our group. It side swiped and whipped around at them, blowing across the field in the exact opposite direction from which it had fallen before. The dents and dings all over the camper began to bounce pea sized hail out of their curves and I watched as they flew sporadically off into nothing.

Lighting flashed on the lake again. A couple of screams sounded from a camp site near by. Everyone from the group began running for the camper again and I stood back with the door open. The last one in was Chris.

"How did you know it was coming back," one of the adults asked me.

"Because the fire blew out."

"What?" I was getting tired of the 'w' questions.

"When we lit the match, the flame blew out the wrong direction."

The storm went on for several more minutes before finally clearing much the way it did before. I poked my head out of the camper and, like a mystic telling a fortune, I openly and boldly predicted the storm would not return that day. I grabbed the matches from Chris and went to light the Coleman stove. The wind died, the sun emerged and the water calmed on the lake. What remained was the most beautiful Utah sunset I had ever seen.

That night after the adults had climbed into their sleeping bags, us kids remained by the camp fire roasting marshmallows and talking about the day's events. Chris chose the lawn chair closest to me. When we all grew tired of eating the sticky treats and licking our fingers clean, our gaze wandered to the stars.

We talked about the constellations for a while. Orion was always the easiest to spot. But around Orion, and indeed all throughout his body, were stars I had never seen before in my life. They were beautiful, like little tiny diamond chips catching light in just the right way. They lit up the blanket above us, millions upon millions of little white dots looking down on us from somewhere out in the vast universe.

It has been a strange day when all was said and done. One moment I had been flying through the air, and another yet I was running from hail stones nearly the size of my own head. The kids had all banded together during that storm though, completely forgetting our friendly rivalry over wanting to gain the companionship of Chris.

As I pointed out Cassiopeia in the sky above, Chris reached over and took my hand. We sat there in silence for a long time that night. I couldn't help but notice the looks on the other girls faces. It wasn't often I won anything as a kid.

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