This picture of yours truly pulling a make-shift diving-board from the rootwad of a stump on the Cedar River doesn’t begin to tell the story. Earlier I mentioned a “felony conviction” for malicious mischief some years back. This is where the “mischief” took place. This is a swimming hole on the Cedar - famous for over half a century as “beer bottle beach” - a mecca that I visited with buddies back in the day on our “trusty Coast Guard approved” 7-60x15 inner-tubes. You get the picture.
Matter of fact we learned some fateful lessons back when! First trip down one spring on an unauthorized field trip from Mrs. Hanis’s afternoon study hall session at our venerable alma mater, old RHS, we nearly lost Pete Cunningham in a logjam.
“Little Pete,” as we called him, hit the water first and sped off with the beer…beer purloined from the back shelf of me beloved mother’s Kelvinator (generous soul she was; never seemed to keep much count…never missed a grog or two, now and then)!
Anyhow, Little Pete rounded the next river bend and was abruptly plunged under a big logjam we had not anticipated! But for the heroics of Eddie “grappa” Tasca and I think it was Lee Douglas, it would have been the end of Pete!
We had no sense of the gravity of that moment. Our main concern was recovering the beer (only marginally successful at that)! It was only years later that I began to realize that our experience was…is…and always will be…a hard fact of life when kids get around rivers. There is no holding back. And nature has a way of filling rivers with dangerous snags…all by herself!
Then a few years back I learned that so-called Large Woody Debris was actually being placed in our rivers…in extremely dangerous manner as you can see in the “crime scene photo”…root-wads protruding into the stream on the outside radii of bends where the current is swiftest…injuries and deaths to floaters…kids and adults alike…were occurring…all for what was… and still is…unproven “fish habitat enhancement!”
Recording several injuries and near death situations at this site…we began to press King County to make the site safe…with the question… “how many fish would you trade one of your kids for”??…if in fact the habitat did work. No one from King County has ever answered.
As the near misses continued I felt finally I had to act. We had removed numerous “diving boards” the kids would place haphazard in the stumps…and then dive into the pool…IN WHICH KING COUNTY HAD PLACED LARGE BOULDERS WITH NO WARNING SIGNS!!! One young lad stated in a KING TV report we arranged from the site that he had rescued several kids who had hit the rocks and nearly drowned.
All to no avail. The County sat on its hands…it was all for the fish!! Never mind the kids!!
So we fired up the trusty “STIHL” and out came three of the stumps!!! Danger done with!!! No more injury. No death period.
Well the short version of the rest of it all was that I was later convicted of malicious mischief and King County demanded $119,000 FOR THEIR DAMMED STUMPS.
That finally became $19,000…but what the hell…I ain’t gonna pay in any event…the County has already confirmed that I was right…and announced that “we don’t do it that way (install big trees with the roots out in the current on river bends) anymore”… “Chuck Pillon showed us we were wrong”!
Damn faint praise if you ask me…be nice if they went back and told the Judge they were wrong…but we are still building on that success…on river danger and other concerns. I will settle for that.