THE RIVER RAT REMEMBERS Episode 2 Broad Creek

BKistlerBKistler Posts: 60 Baller
edited June 15 in News & Other Stuff
Join former AWSA Executive Director Bruce Kistler as he recounts incidents from the Golden Age of water skiing. Interesting people—legends, characters and unsung heroes. Curious places and events. Moments of discovery and wonder. Accidents, mishaps and miscues. Glimpses from inside the organization. Personal stories from a lifetime on skis.

Epidode 2 Broad Creek

Big Al didn’t actually own the cabin on the river. It belonged to a friend of his, and one sad day they had a falling out. Albert immediately began a search for a river place of his own. He eventually found a place on Broad Creek, a navigable tributary of the river below the Maryland state line, closer to the Conowingo Dam. It was a perfect spot. Due to social ties and geography, the breakup over the cabin also resulted in a breakup of the River Rats and I became, at least temporarily, the sole River Rat.

The musty old cabin that Albert bought was a tumble-down affair. The front and rear screen porches were out of square with the main house. The entire place had two electrical outlets, each one sprouting alarming clusters of plugs and wires that would have made a fire marshal faint. The only heat source was an antique sheet-metal woodstove.

Big Al was a jack-of-all trades and proceeded at once to upgrade his new hideout. As the apprentice, I learned a lot of skills that served me well throughout life. We converted the rear screened-in porch into a kitchen. We built a fireplace out of local fieldstone. We upgraded the electrical system. We put on a new roof. We dug a boat slip and built a boathouse over it. We built a seawall out of old railroad ties.

Fortunately for me, water skiing was a big deal on Broad Creek also. The mouth of Broad Creek formed a little bay where every spring a local civic association anchored a community swimming float. My family would pack a picnic and we’d spend the entire day at the float, swimming and skiing. By this time, my entire family could ski, including brother Doug, sisters Carol, Valerie and Mom and Dad. My youngest sister Lydia learned a few years later. Old Man Scarborough anchored his narrow, open-sided jump ramp near the float. I was amazed when I watched teenage Peggy use a double-handle rope to carve sharp slalom turns on her fancy Voit ski. That was awesome. At the float one day, I casually mentioned to an older boy that I had heard a rumor about a skier who had lost a finger when he fell with the rope wrapped around his little finger. Without saying a word, he raised his right hand which had only four fingers. That made an impression on me, and ever since I have respected the power of the towrope.

For my birthday, Big Al presented me with a pair of skis that he had made. Seven-eighths inch thick oak boards covered in fiberglass, they were heavy, indestructible beasts. (I still have one of them in my garage.) We experimented with all sorts of skiing. We’d do headstands on an aquaplane and spin circles on a disk. One guy had a three-foot-long slalom ski that we’d stand on end, trying to stop the boat—breaking a lot of ropes and handles in the process. Somebody had shoe skis that I would get up on by sitting on top of a regular ski. I tried out a pair of slippery banana peel skis, which in hind sight was a momentous occasion. I even learned how to jump. I remember that jarring sound of skis scraping on the ramp deck and the wide-eyed Oh-my-God sensation of being airborne. When I finally landed a jump, I thought to myself: I’m the Johnny of Broad Creek.

When my younger brother Doug learned to jump, Dad decided he’d get in the act too. Not willing to walk before he could run, Dad took a double cut at the ramp on his very first try. The results were predictable. After crashing and burning, Dad crawled into the boat, physically and emotionally injured—but he never said a word. He never tried to jump again.
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