The seasonal cycle of a boathouse
At first, it’s quiet.
Cinderblock walls and deflated rubber and last year’s pictures on the gift shop wall sit on the banks of another season. Then summer trickles in with the NRS orders and T-shirt boxes as lonely doorways welcome old friends and new faces. Tattoos and dreadlocks catch up on the last eight months. The rookies sweat and the seniors sell stories about the hits and the holes, and the gauge says go, so they go. And there’s swearing when it hits waist deep, and the ice cream headache comes as a reminder that this was snow not long ago.
The air fills with nicknames and skateboard wheels and bus exhaust and they look for the lines. The canyon never changes, but it’s different every day, and they learn. And they laugh. And they drink. And some quit because it’s scary and because it’s hard and because it’s not what they thought it would be. But some get hooked. There’s no cure for this fever, and they’ll never be the same. They may get a haircut, but they’ll still claim the title.
Neoprene gives way to sunscreen, and it’s not quiet anymore. Row-throughs and checkouts are done and the Texans come and the trailers are stacked and the parking lot current gets stronger. Tan lines start to show and Chacos start to stink and there might be something going on between those two. The stream of plastic buckles and yellow blades flows into cheesy jokes and wet 20s. The little kids love the scripted surprise of the safety speech bucket, and the big weekends bring flags of red, white, blue and rainbow.
Days get long and tempers get short, but this is it. This. Is. It. Possibly living in a vehicle, but living the dream, dancing with giants, and getting paid to do what others pay to do. Somebody else’s bucket list is just another day in the office for those who’d never, ever want to work in one. Fun runs and Solo cups and there’s definitely something going on between those two, but the levels drop and traffic slows.
The students go back and the lifers keep pushing with shoulders that long for autumn and sons who are ready for dad to make dinnertime. Dirty jokes and clean boats catch the eddy, trying to soak up just a little bit more before it all slips downstream.
Hoodies appear, the leaves disappear, and it’s quiet again.
Anna Bagley is married to Carebear, a river guide for Whitewater Rafting, LLC. They live in Rifle with their two young sons.