More Tails From the Tail End - The (less) Nasty Lumber River
- Frank Dupin has some very strange ideas about fun.
As one of his trips of choice, he volunteered the more gullible
members of the Lumber River Canoe Club (and there weren't many on
this trip) to clean the section from High Hill (NC 72 just south of
Lumberton) to Matthews Bluff Road, 9.5 miles downstream. Frank and
Charles Hickman cajoled the Lumber River State Park to pick up trash
that we would collect and to provide us with trash bags.
The water was at a good running level and the current was more than
adequate. Frank Dupin, who leaves his wife Katie at home for fun
trips, brought her along in a tandem canoe to pick up trash. Jim
and Mia McDermott and the fuzzy McDermott's powered their faithful
canoe, Charles Hickman and friend Nancy Smith braved the waters in a
canoe and Marshall was there in his faded glory and much abused Mad
River solo canoe. Omer Register was in his superglide kayak and of
course, Jim Dupree was there in the green needle. We handicapped
him by tethering him to a battered 10 ft john boat to serve as a
garbage scow, and boy did we need it. Jim never ceases to amaze me
with his paddling strength and endurance.
Frank "The Shuttle Nazi" pushed everybody down the road to the take
out point promptly at 9:29 AM. Unfortunately, I arrived at 9:31 AM.
As I was unloading, Mike and Wanda Strother arrived in a huge black
pickup truck carrying 4 kayaks and two additional friends, Judy
Feeney and Kathy Genter.
As everyone knows, the Roman god of the sea is Neptune. Rivers have
to settle for lesser gods and take what they can get. For those of
you who don't know because you haven't developed the personal and
intimate knowledge of the top, sides and especially bottom of the
Lumber River, the god of the Lumber is Pontune. I've met him,
several times, up close and personal. He ain't pretty.
Pontune sent us an early warning. Some of the early arrivals picked
up a couple of bags of trash at the boat ramp. We launched and
began to scour the shore line. Jim and Mia barely made it past the
NC72 bridge before being accosted by a local fisherman in a plastic
creek boat. His battery was dead and he wanted someone to tow him
back to the boat ramp, his own paddling ability wasn't enough. So
Jim and Mia had the honor of picking up white trash, a whole boat
load in the first 5 minutes.
I've spent the last eight months learning to avoid the sides of the
river and all the associated pitfalls, boat tippers, strainers and
snake limbs, and I'm now fairly successful. So Frank and Marshal
wanted us to pull up in every spot that we normally avoid. I have
to admit, I don't usually see much trash in the middle of the
river. By the time we had made the first trash dump point at a dam
associated with the cooling ponds for the power plant, we had 8 bags
of trash, a soccer ball, a plastic drum, a doll baby and a plastic
Omer and Frank and others introduced the rest of us the hiding
places for sacrifices to Pontune. The Lumber grows a heavy weed on
any limb or tree in the water and this bio-mass makes a pretty good
river strainer for trash. We began to learn about parking ourselves
in these weed beds and start picking. It was easy to fill one or
two bags at each treasure hole. The Kayak tribe could fill about
half to two thirds of a bag before the weight of the contents would
trap their legs and make things uncomfortable. In the second
section, I became a garbage scow for a while in my solo canoe,
accepting trash and passing out new bags. By the time we reached
the second trash drop, we had collected 6 tires, another 14 bags of
trash, a baby rocker, several balls, a trash can lid and a 20 lb
While the first section of river was populated with plastic bottles,
the second section held much more glass bottles, especially old
liquor bottles. Evidently, in the quiet, private waters, Pontune
likes his toddies.
By the third take out at Charles' place, we had collected a couple
more tires and enough trash to total some 58 bags by Frank's count.
Frank is part fisherman and as we all know, all fishermen lie except
for you and me, and between the two of us I don't trust you.
Between the time we made our last count and Sunday morning, the
catch had grown in Frank's mind, but I can swear to you that we
definitely did 50+ bags.
I need to do some bragging at this time. Mike and Wanda Strothers
brought with them two new paddlers, Judy Feeney and Kathy Genter.
Both ladies claimed that this was their first time in canoes or
kayaks, and they performed admirably. They displayed much more
skill than I have even now, showed no fear and endured without
complaint. Many times I saw them wedge into a strainer that scared
me; I suppose ignorance is bliss. They gamely paddled and plucked
all day, gathering tremendous amounts of river bling.
By the time we reached Charles' place and the third trash dump, it
was getting late, after 3PM, we were getting tired and we still had
river to go. We left Charles at his shore and paddled into the
I was enjoying the company of Mike, Wanda, Judy, Kathy, Jim and
Mia. We came to a spot that had a small tree in mid-stream with a
passage on the left and a dip in the tree on the right, complicated
by another overhanging limb about 2-3 feet off the water. I said to
Judy, if you're feeling game you can take the right and duck under
the limb or you can go to the left with me.
As soon as I said this, I thought to myself, this is usually about
the time of day that new paddlers are feeling their newly gained
confidence, and they tip over. So Judy did. Her head and the
overhanging limb mixed it up and good old Pontune rolled her into
the river. Of course, Pontune kept her prescription glasses;
fortunately she had brought a second pair. So now Judy understands
terms like "croakies" and "dry bags". After rejoining her boat, she
paddled on without complaint. We asked her several times if she was
feeling cold but she said that the water was refreshing and she was
fine. Of course, if I turned over this is what I would be saying as
well, plus things like I meant to do it, I was getting hot, I was
bored, the sun was in my eyes, etc. Since it is usually up to me to
appease Pontune, I want to personally thank Judy for accepting the
responsibility on this trip and graciously offering herself to the
Some thoughts for new paddlers joining our twisted little band. The
experienced LRCC members like newbies, they find them entertaining.
Newbies also make good human sacrifices to Pontune. The experienced
members will make paddling look effortless, causing you to kill
yourself trying to keep up. Experienced LRCC members will lead you
astray, like advising you to take the worse course or taking you
down a "shortcut". Experienced members like to get to the put in
early in order to plan jokes for any newbies who show up, so get
there first to make their plotting more difficult.
We reached the take out at 5PM, tired and happy. Mike and I had to
be shuttled back to boat ramp to get our vehicles and when we
returned to Matthews Bluff, Charles and Nancy were there with candy
bars, ice cream cones and water, so we enjoyed their hospitality.
Many thanks to Jim Dupree for pulling the garbage scow and to Omer
for doing the shuttle, even if you did leave me. I got ice cream
and you didn't.