Swamp Thing

Chickahominy Landscape

Chickahominy Landscape (Photo credit: Rob Shenk)

Ever had a “Huckleberry Finn” experience? I mean an “everybody get together throw down and paint your fence”…wait a minute, that was Tom Sawyer. All right, I’ve got it… Remember when the town rallied to rescue Huck from the cave?…No! No! No! That was Becky Thatcher. It musta been the coyote ridin that ACME rocket…you know…he was about to catch the roadrunner… naw, that’s not it either.

I’ll just tell my story because I did have a real life, genuine (i.e. gen-u-wine), honest to goodness Huck Finn moment…at least, I think I did… Anyway, here goes; you be the judge…


I grew up near the Chickahominy River Recreational Complex and Amusement Park or C.R.A.P. for short…Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist and believe it or not I didn’t plan that acronym.

Actually I grew up almost smack dab in the middle of the Chickahominy River basin. For me it was a huge source of entertainment, with its ponds, marshes, canals, pastures, wooded areas, creeks–you name it and it had it as far as outdoor recreation goes. From about the age of twelve I fished, hunted, caught frogs, snakes, salamanders, snapping turtles, and probably did numerous things my parents would have had a fit had they known. Not illegal things but stupid things like climbing to the top of a sapling and swinging down to the ground or swimming with copperheads… Just your normal, average, everyday, young teenager behavior, right?

One of my best friends in school was Joe. He was my cohort in this alleged Huck Finn caper. Now to the story…

Take three fifty-five gallon drums, two by two’s to hold them together, a sheet of plywood for a deck with assorted pipes, and pieces of plywood for custom-made swivel seats, and wadda-ya know, a genuine swamp-worthy raft.

There was only one minor problem…how to haul an awkward, two-hundred plus pound behemoth the better part of a mile and carry it over anything but level terrain. This was a veritable torture course of hills, twice as far up as they were down. Woods, creeks, ditches, barbed wire fences, fields with grass more than four feet tall and there may have been a volcano and a dragon or two  (I can’t recall the entire treacherous journey).

Several hours, and more than a few unwholesome words later, we were ready for our maiden voyage. Now, you have to use your imagination and picture this–two skinny young teenagers pushing this conglomeration into the water. Hold your breath…Drum roll…It floats perfectly! All aboard!

Before we shoot the rapids let me tell you that this thing was about as stable as a schizophrenic crack-head jonesing for morphine. Not only could we not stand on it; we couldn’t sit, lay or even look at it without being thrown off. I imagine two otters trying to balance on a wet, greasy, beach-ball.  After the addition of a fourth barrel and some judicious carpentry, we had a raft Huck and Jim both would have been proud of.

We had a great time using the raft to float felled trees to a secluded area to build a log cabin, which never came to fruition. The swamp was ours to exploit, and we did until such time in a young man’s life when his priorities turn to what is perceived to be more mature undertakings, namely cars and  girls, but is now known to merely be hormone upheaval.

That was a great part of my childhood. I think back on it fondly; in fact, years later I actually built a log cabin less than a mile from where we used to fish.  I lived in it for seven years before moving out of the area. Ya know, this isn’t such a bad story…maybe I’ll take time and write it down someday….ah…I don’t know.

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