As far back as I can remember, a wooden raft rested at the bottom of Ivy Creek. On days when the water was clear, my oldest brother’s homemade raft was easily visible. He made it about halfway to the other bank, before his pride-and-joy started down!
I suppose seeing that crude miniature-Titanic replica resting on the bed of our creek, spurred my own attempt at shipbuilding and sailing. I was about 11, when my buddy Ken and I built our raft. I realized the usefulness of wooden-shipping pallets long before they became popular building material. Since pallets resemble a small raft, Ken and I thought we could skip a few steps in building our vessel. We added a few boards in the blank spaces, tied on empty jugs for extra floating capability, and set sail. For years to come, our raft rested on the floor of Ivy Creek, on the opposite side of the bridge from my brother’s raft. Ken volunteered to be the skipper, while I bravely watched from the bank and cheered him on. With our raft on the water, Ken put one foot on deck, but before he could get the other one onboard, the raft began to drift toward the other side. He looked like a gymnast doing a split! With great support of his effort, I almost split my side as I howled with hysterical laughter as Ken came up wet! We discovered that pallets make better club houses than they do boats.
Fast forward about a half-dozen years, when Fred Ledford tried his hand at floating on the waters. This time it was on Jim Scott’s Pond, which was located directly in front of my house. What began as a leisurely day of wetting-a-hook, ended up as a comical day of wetting-a-Fred. As I cast my brand-new rooster-tail lure, I demonstrated my skills in angling (actually dangling). I had hoped for a big bass, but instead, I caught a low-hanging tree limb. We called those “limb breams!” I tugged on the line until it snapped and left my rooster tail dangling above the water. It was far enough out that I couldn’t reach it from the bank, and the tree limbs were too small to climb. As we pondered our dilemma, we spotted Mama’s number-two washtub nearby. We reasoned that it would float, and could be used as a boat from which we could retrieve my lure. It looked like a one-man boat. My mind went back to Ken and the raft, so I volunteered Fred to be the skipper of the wash tub. We learned a couple of things that day. First, washtubs don’t float when manned. Second, the middle of March is not a good time to test out a washtub boat. Third, a sunken tub with a boy in it is almost as funny as a sunken raft with a boy on it. My shiny rooster tail dangled from that limb for quite some time to come. For years, I held out hope that a big bass might jump out of the water and grab hold of it. Of course, that never happened, but I sniggered a little every time I saw it.
Noah built perhaps the largest boat anyone had ever built at that time. People probably laughed at him, like I laughed at my friends, but they laughed before he set sail. Noah, with directions from above, built a giant boat that actually floated. Some boats don’t float. Some people try to build a life that won’t float. That may be because they use the wrong material, like we did, or don’t follow the directions, like Noah did.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Tuesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.