This is yet another story from my past. Being a former marine who spent a lot of their youth in marinas and around bodies of water, I have hundreds of memories I could share but this is one of the ones that are special enough to share on this blog. Warning: this story is a little rambly and has some adult content. But it does have a good moral lesson at the end.
The Columbia River is of historical significance to North America in more ways than I can count. People have fished there for thousands of years and even as a 16-year-old young man I tried to remember that. I only wish I knew the name the Natives used to call it a thousand years ago. If I knew I would call it by that name, but I’m bad at research and am too afraid of using a historical name that is incorrect. If you know the original First Nations’ name of the Columbia River, please email me to let me know. Thank you!
Anyways, this story isn’t about Native American rivers and traditions but rather the foolish shenanigans of a modern American teenager and his friends fishing in a river without the permission of their parents. My dad and I were visiting some of my dad’s old friends in Gresham Oregon when they invited us to visit their cabin on the banks of the Columbia River and do some fishing. Being men of marine life, of course we said “yes”.
The day started driving up from downtown Gresham OR to the cabin by the river, which seemed like a long time at the time but looking back at it know it must’ve not taken too long. I remember when we “finally” arrived at the cabin and I saw my first glance of the river. Boy, was it beautiful, and the sight made the wait worth while.
However, the real fun for me didn’t begin until after my dad went to bed that night. I remember not being able to sleep because I could hear people partying in the distance. I had partied once or twice before, maybe a lot more than that, but still… at my age the sound of people my own age laughing and having a good time was like something from a dream. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep but every time I came close to sleeping I would picture myself meeting the cutest girl of my dreams at a river party and for the life of me I just couldn’t fall asleep.
That’s when I sprang from bed like a rabbit in a foxhole and climbed out the window with a flashlight to investigate just how much fun these hooligans were having without me. I remember walking through the wooded bank beside the river for a brief time before spotting a dock. The dock gave a sight beyond my expectations, as I witnessed at least 20 teenagers drinking and dancing, all the while fishing and not only fishing but actually catching fish, which is what had caused much of their uproar. Right as I arrived they had caught another fish, and everyone on the dock jumped up and down to make the dock shake in the river.
I didn’t give much thought to it but just walked over to see if anyone would notice that some stranger was here watching all the fun. Against my shy hopes, yet making my previously mentioned dream come true, a cute girl noticed me and walked over. Of course, the first thing she said to me was “what’s your story?”
I replied, “I’m here with my father. We plan to do some fishing in the morning. I hope you guys don’t catch them all.”
“We won’t,” she said. “But you must be an angel because we just ran out of alcohol.”
At the time I was too young to notice that she was trying to use me. More of her friends came over and as quickly as any conversation can switch topics I found myself being interviewed about how many beers my dad’s friends kept in their fridge. I remembered seeing at least a six pack of beers in there when I had grabbed milk, and told them the truth.
The cute girl, while I was fantasizing about kissing her, seduced me into agreeing to the plan to sneak into the cabin I was staying in so that I could steal beer for my new friends. Today, I no longer consider these kids friends, but at the time I thought I was the coolest kid in Gresham. But I wasn’t so cool when it came time to actually stealing the beer.
As flashlights glimmered in the trees and I snuck up to the window, hearing exciting whispers behind me, I cracked the window open and did my naughty duty. Except when I got to the fridge I found that it was locked! I snuck back outside to tell my friends the sad news and the cute girl replied “no worries, I can break any lock! Let me have a look at it.”
At that moment, the thought of letting a cute girl sneak into my window was only an excuse to get the chance to kiss her in my bedroom. That moment when I did have her in my room all to myself is the most vivid moment of this whole story for me. I remember thinking about that moment as a marine during a gunfight in the Middle East: when I thought I was going to die my only regret was not kissing her.
Now that I’m a little wiser though… I still wish I had kissed her. Instead, we snuck straight to the kitchen and when she saw the lock all her hope of getting more beer for her friends was gone. But then a spark lit up in her eyes and she came up with an idea. Whispering in my ear, she said “there’s a whole case of beer on top of the fridge.”
I looked to where she was pointing and saw that she was right. Why hadn’t I seen that before? I ask myself that as I blindly watched my new cute, fake friend climb up the fridge to grab it. That’s when all of hell broke loose, and the fridge came toppling over to crash all over the kitchen floor like a beached whale. Right away, the fridge broke, and at my age I was still too young and inexperienced to fix it, although I would soon become well versed in the appliance repair trade. So I was just as innocent as her as my dad’s friends came stomping out of their bedrooms to scream in rage at me. Upon seeing all the drunken teenagers waiting with flashlights outside, they didn’t even need me to explain what was going on, especially as the cute girl snatched up the beers anyways and sprang outside to flee.
The rest of that night is a little blurry but the next morning is still vivid in my mind. The fridge turned out to need repairs so my hosts called Appliance Repair Gresham to get it fixed and to this day I can still feel the blow of having to pay back my dad the $160 it cost to repair the fridge.
Boy, was that girl cute…
It turned out that much later when I was 21-years-old I fished at that same river again, although in a different spot, and I must say despite this strange memory I think Columbia River is a great place to go fishing. Just remember, if you bring your teenager along with you it’s best to lock them in their room, because locking the fridge just isn’t good enough.