The Natural State vs. The Wilsons
By Dorothy Wilson ‘The Marion Mom’
Nature and I do not get along. It was a surprising discovery to me. I have always seen myself as a child of the earth — preferring a hike to a waterfall over a nap by the pool.
This summer has changed my mind.
I took my daughter to Hardy to celebrate her tenth birthday. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve never actually done any water sports in Hardy before. So my entire trip was planned by the vast resources and reviews available from my travel agent, Mr. Google.
First of all, the good people of Hardy don’t really know what Internet is.
Second, just because a place calls itself a resort, doesn’t mean it is a resort.
So, the woman running Southfork Resort advised me that due to Kora’s age, we should probably choose a tubing trip over a rafting trip. I envisioned the two of us, sprawled across our tubes, eyes closed, the sun warming us, the cool water splashing over our sizzling skin, shooting the breeze, laughing together. So.
Wrong. This was no beach resort, lazy river, pool feature, powered by electricity and chlorine.
Nature got involved. That was the problem.
So the idea was that the owner’s kid would take us and our tubes to a drop-off point on the Southfork River, and we could float right back to our cabin.
As this scrawny, scraggletoothed fellow was dragging our tubes to the bank, I asked, “So… what do we do here?”
He looked at me like I was an idiot. I’m sure that’s how I came across. Seems simple enough: Sit in tube. Float down river.
Okay well we sat in the tube, but we didn’t do much floating down the river. Apparently Southfork felt more like a lake that day than a river.
So off my tube I slid. I kicked. And kicked. And kicked, pushing both my empty tube and Kora on her tube. It seemed like forever but it was only, say, a quarter of a mile.
We finally hit some rapids (which again is kind of a misnomer. I’d call them “meanders.”) so I clambered back onto the tube. No easy task. I looked like an octopus in a go cart.
Yeah, those rapids pushed us right into the swath of reeds defining the bank of the river. So I tumbled back out of the tube and walked us back into the flowing path of the river. About the time we finally got settled, I glanced over at Kora, who seemed delighted. She pointed to the edge of the water. “Look Mom! A fish!” I saw a little head poking up out of the water. Definitely not a fish. Kora realized it, too. My little pre-teen girl with the largest set of vocal chords I’ve ever heard yelled, “Snaaaaaaake!”
And then, she hyperventilated. (That’s the fancy way of saying, “She freaked out.”) So there we were, slave to the will of the current, floating straight toward the enemy of women everywhere, with no recourse.
“What do I do. Mama, tell me what to do! What do I do?” rang in my ears as my head flipped through the flash cards containing my meager knowledge of snakes.
Basically, all you need to know about snakes is just to keep away, right?
We pulled our limbs into our tubes as the current propelled us toward what was surely our demise. Right at it! I lamented that our tubing expedition didn’t come with a paddle. I’d have whopped that thing on its head a hundred times by now.
Somehow, we survived the Battle with the Snake unscathed, only to face the Battle of the Spiders.
Which I lost. Badly. When you’re letting the river take you where it wants, you don’t want lots of jagged tree branches hanging off the bank, scratching you up.
You don’t want those tree branches to be blanketed in spider webs.
And you definitely don’t want those spider webs to be peppered with giant spiders. Giants. Like, four inches in diameter.
The first time I saw Kora plummeting toward the Tree of Death, panic overtook me as I tried to warn her. She tumbled out of her tube just in time to avoid scraping a host of arachnids onto her floating island of peril.
However, I was not so lucky.
Another thing about tubing without a paddle is that sometimes, you get turned around backwards and can’t see what’s coming.
Fun on a roller coaster.
Dreadful on the tubing ride of horror.
I suppose I had half a second notice before the current swept me into a spiderdoom tree. Just enough time to assume the fetal position.
I felt the stumpy branches claw into my skin as I breezed past, dragging across my back like an angry cat.
As I unfolded, my heart dropped to my stomach, and my lungs stopped working.
My body was covered in giant spiders. Kora may think I maintained composure during this awful moment of realization, but the truth is, I flew right past hyperventilation into petrification.
Eventually, I regained use of my extremities and flopped into the water, successfully washing away the hysteria.
When we returned the tubes, the cashier said, “Aw, honey, you rented them all day. Don’t you just want to play around the river here?”
I glared at her. Why, no, I do not. Not even two weeks later, I planned another outdoor excursion-this time a brief romantic g e t a w a y that included plans for a trail hike with my husband.
We happened upon a trail behind the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, and delighted at our good fortune, followed, unaware of what lurked ahead.
Nature was all over that trail.
Well, we didn’t get lost.
We did enjoy a fantastic lookout view. We didn’t get injured. And we didn’t get poison ivy. But we did get deer ticks.
Hundreds. It kind of kills the romance to be tasked with plucking a hundred tiny black bloodsuckers off the legs and feet of your spouse.
The romance dies further when you have a histamine reaction to each little bite that leaves you inconsolably itchy and so achy that if you even see someone thinking about touching you, it sends you into fits for a week.
But we did put that hour of tick-picking to good use, creating new a new slogan for Arkansas, the Natural State: “Nature itches. Wear pants.”
Followed by a great advertising campaign for the insect repellent, Off: “If you’re going off, get Off.”
Stupid “natural state.”
I’ve just about had enough nature for one summer. So, if you need me, you can find me out by the fullychlorinated, critter-free pool, taking a nap.
Dorothy Wilson’s columns appear monthly in the Marion Ledger. Reprints, like this one from the August 2015 edition of the Ledger, appear in the online edition of the Evening Times. She lives in Marion with her husbana Chris as they enjoy all the adventures their seven children provide — except
maybe this one.