Little Big Town! That was the first thing that came to mind when I knew our four-generation family was going to rent a pontoon boat for a day of fun in the sun while on our vacation in Branson, Mo. in June 2016.
Pontoon was a number 1 hit from the country quartet’s 2012 album, Tornado.
For days, I went around humming the chorus to the popular chart topper. “On the pontoon; Makin’ waves and catchin’ rays up on the roof; Jumpin’ out the back, don’t act like you don’t want to; Party in slow motion; Out here in the open; Mmmmmmm…motorboat in.’”
The day finally came. I headed out on the boat dock walking across the wide wooden planks wearing my flip flops, clad in my Americana swim suit, American Eagle T-shirt and Superman baseball cap.
I was covered in sun screen from head to toe. My mother had applied it a little too generously. I looked like a zombie from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.
We were setting sail from the marina at Table Rock Lake, part of Table Rock State Park, which was close to the southern border between Missouri and Arkansas.
After watching my nieces and nephew having a blast riding the watercraft behind the boat as they bounced across the rippling water tossing them to and fro, I was ready to have a turn.
I should have known something was up when my youngest sister relinquished her duties as the pontoon’s pilot to my brother-in-law, Tony. The first thing he said was, “I won’t go too fast.” Famous last words.
I climbed down the ladder on the back of the sizable one level floating structure and dove off the boat. After swimming out to the raft, my niece, Ashley, and nephew, Michael, helped me climb aboard.
For the time being, I felt safe in the middle. But that didn’t last long. When Tony stepped on the gas, our weight tipped the raft forward and we all went under the water.
As the raft resurfaced, we were all laughing and spitting water out of our mouths like a water fountain.
Sliding our bodies back as much as possible while still grasping the raft handles, we stayed afloat when the pontoon took off once again.
We were laughing and having fun until my brother-in-law decided to step on the gas a little harder. Then we were hanging on for dear life. Lucky for me I was in the center and had a firm grasp on two handles.
Ashley wasn’t so fortunate. As the boat veered to the left, our bodies veered to the right and my niece went bye-bye.
I turned my head to see her bobbing up and down in the freshwater lake.
After going back to pick her up, of course, she wanted in the middle. I feared the worst. And, of course, with Tony behind the wheel, my fears were justified.
I think he had horns under that sun visor. (Wink, wink)
Learning from our previous fiasco, we immediately shifted our weight so as not to go under the water upon take off. We were happy-go-lucky until Mr. Speed Demon was cruising across the lake like a bat out of hell.
At least that’s how I saw it from my point of view. I mean seriously. I, along with my sister’s children, was the one bouncing up and down on the waves created by the faster pace of the pontoon. We were hanging on for dear life.
In the back of my mind, I could hear Tony saying, “I won’t go too fast.” I was about ready to give him a what for. Just as soon as I got back on that thing that seemed like a torture device with a madman at the controls. If I even made it back on the boat.
As Tony veered left, there we went. All three of us veered to the right. My niece and nephew knocked my body clean off the raft.
I was hanging there with both hands on the handles as my body skidded across the choppy water stinging my bare skin like a thousand needle pricks.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not get my body back on the watercraft. Then the unthinkable happened. One by one, my fingers pried themselves loose from the handle shared by my niece and I.
Knowing there was no way I could hang on with just one hand, I let go to end the pain and suffering. My body bounced across the water for what seemed like an eternity before I was completely submerged beneath the lake.
Lucky for me, I was wearing a life jacket.
But do you know what: when I looked up, Tony was still going at full speed ahead. With the exception of my sister’s kids, who were on the deathtrap with me, no one even knew I had fallen off the watercraft.
I never did give Tony a what for. I think my brain was fried after the suffering my body endured on that torture device they called a raft.
It wasn’t until we got back to the resort that I discovered the only photo evidence of me on the raft was after I was knocked silly and was on all fours trying to get my bearings.
I was ready to hit the playback button just to get a decent photo of me on the flotation device.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.