There were eleven of us in all, seven guys and four girls. We'd all been driven up to Marshal Summit by adults, two cars driven by our parents, and the van driven by Mr. Manley, the church choir director. In all we had nine big black rubber truck inner tubes that we'd gotten inflated right before we began our twenty five mile journey back down to Canby, where the adults were waiting to pick us up and give us all rides back to the church.
Lisa, who was my girl friend that summer, and I, we had one of the biggest tubes, big enough for us both to ride in. There were two other big tubes besides ours. Karen and Judy Beaumont were riding together in one of those, and Nancy Manley, the choir director's daughter was taking the last big tube, all by herself.
It was mid summer, and the river was not that cold on the surface. The current was slow moving at that time of year, no more than five miles per hour. Our little tube riding trip would take us the rest of the morning, and some of the afternoon.
We were all experienced swimmers, and ranged in age between fourteen and seventeen. Karen was the lone seventeen year old, and Judy, her sister, was the youngest in our choir group that day.
We had no more than just left Marshal Summit before Lisa started in complaining about how uncomfortable it was having to share a tube with me. Even as big as that truck tube was, she was right about it not being the easiest thing for two people trying to shift around on it.
I was fifteen, and for the past two weeks at least, I'd been anticipating this river trip being the sexual highlight of my summer. Lisa and I had only kissed a few times in the month or so we'd gone together, but I'd been hopeful that we might seek out some privacy on the journey and take our friendship to a higher level. She didn't share this particular hopefulness with me, apparently.
During the first hour was when we made the steepest part of the descent towards Canby. The river was narrower at this end, and, as a result, the current moved along at a faster pace. Except for Lisa's constant grumbling and complaining, I was enjoying myself.
"Jerry, would you be mad if I try to get someone else to switch places with me? I think I'd have more fun if I had my own tube. We could still ride alongside each other."
"I don't want to ride with anyone else, Lisa. I thought the whole point of this was so we could spend time together?"
"Whatever you want to do. I'm not going to ride with Wally or Ernie though." Wally and Ernie were both large boys. Either of them easily outweighed me by a good seventy or eighty pounds.
Everyone pulled out of the current when we reached Cedar Point. This marked the end of the faster part of our journey. From here on, the river widened, and the current slowed by quite a lot.
"I don't like sharing a tube with Jerry. Will anyone agree to switch places with me?" Lisa's request was met with silence. It looked like no one was willing to give up having their own tube. Instead of accepting that no one was willing, Lisa started pestering individuals. "Don, won't you switch with me?"
Don Prescott had been Lisa's boyfriend before me. I wasn't aware of why they'd broken up, only that they had, thus leaving the way clear for me to pursue her. I was happy to see him shaking his head from side to side. Even though I'd told Lisa that it was okay for her to switch tubes with someone else, I wasn't very happy about her doing it. We were just getting ready to push back out to the middle of the current when Nancy Manley asked Lisa if she thought she could handle a large tube by herself. When Lisa said she could, the two girls switched places.
At first, Lisa kept her tube close to ours. For some reason Nancy kept paddling with her hands in such a way as to keep us closer to the river bank, making it difficult for us to stay up with the main group. Lisa stayed back with us for the first twenty minutes or so, but then she grew concerned that the others were getting too far ahead, so she abandoned us and moved back out in the current, paddling with her hands to try to catch back up with them. For the next ten minutes I only paid attention to the sight of my girlfriend paddling away from me. By the time I really noticed how slow we were going, Lisa was almost an eighth of a mile in front of us. The main group was another eighth of a mile in front of her.
"Is she far enough away yet, Jerry?"