Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 5-30-11
Do you know where you were when the world was supposed to end? Mercy Mee knows where she was. (Don’t worry, that’s not actually her moniker.) On that day, Mercy tried to walk under water – specifically the Yellowstone River bed. Is she nuts, you ask?
No, at least not certifiably batty, although she does have attitude. Currently, as part of EMT preparation, she’s taking a Rescue Training course. Who would save you if you fell out of a fishing boat or slipped off a shoreline into a swift-moving river? Mercy Mee, that’s who.
Around five o’clock on the day the world was to end, I joined Mercy and three of her team mates in The Thirsty Turtle Tavern. (Yes, that’s the actual name of the establishment and if you haven’t been there, you’re in for a treat). Clarence, Calvin and Clementine along with Mercy were grouped around a buddy bar, enjoying a post-training brew, two kinds of pizza and assorted nacho selections. I pulled up a stool next to Mercy.
The team had spent the morning listening to an instructor teaching them the fine points of yanking somebody out of the water. Then they’d gone to a fishing access on the Yellowstone River – the only undamned river remaining in the U.S. Melting of record snowfall in the altitudes of Yellowstone National Park, the Crazy Mountains, the Absarokas, the Beartooths have turned rivers and creeks, and especially the Yellowstone, into torrents that move at tsunami speed.
As near as I can understand it, to “rescue” someone who’s been careless enough to fall in the river, the recuer stands on the river bank – or maybe braced in a fishing boat – and throws the rescuee a rope. The rope is coiled in a nylon sack which floats. The free end of said rope is held by the shore-standing or boat-standing rescuer. The aim is to have the drowning person grab the sack which holds the rope and hang on while being dragged to safety.
On the day the world might’ve ended if what’s-his-face’s math had worked out, the weather blew in rainy and cold. No problem. Mercy Mee, Calvin, Clarence and Clementine had suited up in wet suits, wore life preserver jackets and all sorts of other safety equipment stuff.
“So, how’d it go?” I asked.
“Swimmingly,” said Mercy. (Did I mention that she has attitude?)
“Yeah,” said Clarence. “Mercy decided to scuba dive.”
Mercy grunted, “Not my fault.”
“So what happened?”
Mercy took a swallow of brew, rolled her eyes and stated, “Clarence threw me the rope. It hit me in the face. I snatched it up and held on, but the water was moving at tornado speed; I got yanked off my feet. The force of the flow acted like a battering ram and drove the rope sack and me under.”
“Ye Gods,” I said, “that doesn’t sound like good rescue technique. What did you do?”
“I let go of the rope.”
“But you had nothing to hang on to! You could’ve drowned!”
“Nahh, I figured to let the current take me. I wasn’t that far from shore. Better to let go of the rope than to eat river bottom.”
Clarence spoke up. “I saved her!”
“Yeah, I waded in and grabbed the back of her jacket. She came up spitting water. For a minute I thought I’d glommed onto Free Willie.”
“Sounds darned scary to me,” I said. “This was supposed to be the end of the world today and holy cow, for you, it almost was.”
“Yup,” said Mercy. ” I experienced rapture and now I’m here in Thirsty Turtle Heaven. I think I’ll have another brew.”
Have I mentioned that Mercy has attitude?
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