Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rainie John

Then there was the time “Rainie John” MacFarnham rode Klamath over Rainie Falls on a commercial trip for students from Western Mennonite School. We had already taken the paddle raft (Cheyenne) down the lining chute, and I was attempting to show John how to get into the middle chute with the barge raft. He was a very experienced boater, so I was reluctant to jump in and give him too much coaching. It was a late May trip at a moderate water level, so there was a fairly strong pull toward the falls at the entry channel to the middle chute. John misjudged the current and didn’t pull quite hard enough to stay in the channel, and we suddenly found ourselves out of the channel, moving toward the falls.

In the few seconds available, I saw one possibility to keep from going over. I stepped off the raft onto a three-foot wide rock, with the intention of wrapping the bow line around it; but the raft was moving too fast by then. John went backward over the falls. I sat on the rock above the brink and saw the entire raft vanish under water in the white, churning pool. It surfaced against the left bank, full of water but right side up. I couldn’t see John, but I could tell from the reactions of the people on shore that they could see him. He came into my view about 100 yards below the falls, where he was able to catch the raft and eventually drag it to shore. Amazingly, nothing was lost. One oar blade got bent, and I think some water got into the breadbox.

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