In 1997, at the end of the month of May, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. And even more fortunate was the fellow whose life I helped to save! I was part of a three man rescue that saved a man from drowning in a cold deep northern Wisconsin lake near home....and even earned a Wisconsin Sherrif's Association "Quick Thinking" plaque/award because of it. (my son still thinks to this day that I made the plaque myself...>g<)
A couple of weeks later I was in Telluride for the Bluegrass festival, when a group of us decided to go on a whitewater rafting trip. (sounded like a good and fun idea at the time...)So, we hired a guide and the five of us were excited about a wild ride! We were having a grand time, all six of us paddling in accordance with the guide's directions. The trip was goin' along smoothly until we hit a rock and the raft flipped over, throwing all of us into that raging freezing river...that roaring water was SNOW the night before!
Because of our positions in the raft, I was thrown the farthest, landing in the middle of the river, where a fight to stay afloat and alive was suddenly thrust upon me. It was a total water hell! There were times when I was tossed around, flipped around, and so was heading downriver head first...just the way you're not supposed to. During the 5 or 6 minutes that I fought the river I can remember thinking only one thing: "Where was everyone else, and how are THEY doing?!"
Fortunately a couple of the fellow rafters had not been thrown far and were able to pick up paddles and start after the rest of us who were farther down the river. I didn't actually see anyone until the raft had finally caught up to me, and what a marvelous sight that was! By then I had no strength left...they caught me just in time, I do believe. I spent the rest of my time in the raft at the bottom of the raft, too weak to paddle or even bail. Eventually we hit upon a spot where we could land and thankfully the trip was over!
Upon returning to Town Park, we had quite the story! A couple of nurse friends of mine did what they could to help me, and I do believe the biggest help came in the form of some kind of narcotic that one of them gave me which enabled me to sleep. Everyone was of course very happy that we made it...and everyone also predicted that there would be no dancing for me during this festival!
But of course I fooled em'.... >g< I was sitting in the glorious Colorado sun during the first set of the festival that Thursday, crying over what had transpired the day before and the fact that I was still around, diggin' the festival and all that entails. And then I danced....through stubborness and inspiration and sheer desire I ignored my bruised body (I had some magnificent black and blue marking ALL over my body!) and danced my way through the next four days! It was a hoot, as usual.
On the Monday after the festival Lynn and I were headed north and east, and were just entering the bigger mountains when we were driving around a left hand turn in the road...and suddenly, RIGHT in front of us a whirling dervish that we couldn't make out went blasting past us, headed down the side of the mountain. To this day we do not know if the dervish was a car or a truck or a bus...it was that close to us! As the vehicle went off the side of the mountain we could follow the clouds of dust as it headed deeper and deeper into the abyss, ending in a big dark black smokey cloud. There was a vehicle stopped in front of us and he was calling in the accident; so we kept on going, feeling there was really nothing we could do and feeling awful and damned lucky all at the same time....
We arrived home on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning as I was working on unpacking the car Lynn came to tell me that my Mother had called, asking that I come over..she wasn't feeling right. When I arrived I realized that she needed an ambulance. She was having a heart attack; one that she would die from, nine days later. During those nine days I traveled back and forth from the hospital (about an hour's drive) that they had flown her to....with my mind reeling and even hallucinating from all that had happened in the last couple of weeks; I would be driving along when suddenly I would be back in the river!
So---up until that less than a month of four death and near-death experiences I was pretty much a carpe-diem kind of fellow anyway, but after that I totally became and still am a carpe-diem kind of fellow.....