years ago we had a lot of rain that flooded the marsh. Normal
landmarks disappeared under water and we were able to
travel farther south than I had ever been on the river.
There were three
airboats running together that day. The boat I was riding
only had a drivers seat, so I sat on the footrest. It makes
for a bumpy ride, and you have to keep clear of the accelerator,
but you do get a close-up view of the trail!
We had wandered into
totally unfamiliar territory, and my boat was third in
the line as we skimmed over the water.
Now, in an airboat
you don't follow directly behind each other - you would
be getting the mist thrown up by the prop wash right in
your face. That can be pleasant for a few minutes in the
summer, but it was winter time and cold.
Me, sitting on the footrest.
I was dressed for
cold weather with jeans, a jacket, and knee-high leather
boots. When you drive an airboat very fast in cold air
it can cut right through your garments, and since I knew
I would be riding a footrest and getting the full force
of the wind I wore the boots to protect my legs from the
cold. One of the best fashion decisions I ever made!
The lead airboat
went past a line of trees, and the driver spotted something
and pointed towards them for the second airboat to see.
The second airboat pointed at the trees for our benefit.
My driver, instead of staying in the open like the first
two boats, and not seeing what the first boats were pointing
to, decided to take a shortcut through the treeline.
The trees were growing
on a rise of dirt, but the water was up over the ground
so my driver headed for a gap in the trees and started
through. The boat met some resistance and the driver figured
we were just scraping bottom so he responded as an airboater
usually will - he stood on the gas.
The next thing I
knew, something struck me right below my knees, slid down
both shins and tightened around my ankles. My ankles were
pulled back, under the seat stand, with such force that
the entire seat stand buckled and bent forward. The driver
was thrown out of the boat over my head and I was pinned
to the bow of the boat by the collapsed seat stand and
my bound ankles.
I was actually terrified
most because I didn't feel any pain. It's got to be a pretty
serious accident to collapse a seat stand, but I couldn't
move my legs and I didn't feel any pain!!! Arrrhhhhggg!
The boat we were riding - before
the seat stand collapsed.
My driver was equally
terrified when he picked himself up and ran to see about
me. As it turned out, what the other airboaters were pointing
at was a line of barbed wire attached to the treeline.
Running into a wire at high speed has been known to cause
severe injuries - and he didn't know about my good leather
There was a hook
on the bow of the airboat especially to catch things like
that wire, but somehow it came over the hook. The wire
struck me about 1/4 inch from the top of my boots and our
forward momentum caused the wire to slide all the way down
to my ankles where it used all the conditions present to
bend the seat stand and break the two front support rods
and pin me like a bug to the bow of the boat.
After my driver had
cut me free of the wire and pulled the seat stand off of
me I pulled up my jeans to examine the damage. I thought
my friend was going to weep with relief when he saw my
boots and my unbroken skin!
I was so incredibly
lucky! I developed long bruises down both shins and my
ankles were just solid masses of bruises. There was another
bruise running from one hip bone to the other where I had
been pinned to the bow of the boat. Thank goodness I had
worn those leather boots, or I would have been cut off
at the ankles!
My driver had a scraped
hand from his landing when he flew out of the boat and
was sopping wet. The seat stand had to be patched together
with boat paddles and wire and was too rickety to hold
both of us so I had to ride back in another boat. ( I think
I got as many bruises from the ride back as I did from
the accident - I couldn't reach my feet to the bow of the
boat and bounced around a lot.)
All in all, we got
off pretty lucky - we got a good story at the cost of a
few bruises. I still have those old boots. They have been
in and out of fashion three times by now, but with a coat
of polish they look just like new. I'll always remember
how they saved me from such a close call!