The day turned out to be more pleasure cruise than garbage scow.
It was Saturday, Aug. 24. Once again, I’d volunteered to help to float down the Snoqualmie River with Wade Holden of Friends of the Trail, fishing for garbage on the riverbed and along its banks.
Once again, the day was beautiful, eventually warming into the 80s in the afternoon – plenty enough reason to plunge underwater to dislodge an embedded car tire. (Although causing a string of curses when I remembered I’d worn my contacts and had attempted to open my eyes to discern a good place to grip.)
Once again Wade was the exuberant host, sometimes urging us on in Texas-accented Spanish, always casting his “eagle eye” over the river to find a discarded pop can glinting in the sun.
Last year, we started in Fall City and made our way toward Carnation. Being my first trip, I was taken aback by the amount of garbage we amassed, sometimes struggling to find enough space in the raft for us to sit.
Over the course of time, the river had been turned into a serpentine dumping ground, complete with its share of furniture, scrap metal and rubber fishing waders, the boot to which jutted out from the bottom of the river, apparently trying to trip someone swimming by.
At the end of the day, we hauled the raft ashore near Tall Chief Golf Course, all of us soggy and tired. But with the fatigue and aching muscles came a sense of accomplishment. After so many years of taking from the environment, I was giving something back.
It was for that same reason that I volunteered again this year, which also marked the second year of Friends of the Trail’s river cleanup. This time, I brought along my youngest brother, Andy. This time, instead of paddling downstream from Fall City, we began in Carnation at the access area beside the Tolt Hill Bridge. Wade’s goal was to make it to Duvall by the conclusion of the cleanup Sunday evening.
This time, we had more boats – and more people. About 11 a.m., 13 of us we set the four rafts into the water, splitting up to scrutinize the bottom of the river and its banks.
This time, we found less trash, which was either a sign that people were being more responsible or our “eagle eyes” were failing to catch enough prey. We ended the day at a beach near the Nestle Regional Training Center, and I was proud to see that Andy had spotted more car tires than any of us – 12 to be exact. They were heaped on top of each other in the middle of the raft.
We almost got stuck there. I guess there are some places even a 4-by-4 pickup has trouble going. After several attempts of trying to drive up the bank to an adjacent field, all four spinning tires digging Wade’s truck deeper into the sand, we climbed into the back to serve as rear-end ballast. After a running start, we made it out. (Hopefully it wasn’t my rear-end ballast that tipped the scales in our favor.)
I feel guilty I wasn’t able to do more. Wade does this sort of thing every day. I wonder what makes him want to go back. Some places, like where we began our day at the Tolt Hill Bridge, require cleanup on a constant basis.
Maybe if all of us were to help out one day a year, there wouldn’t be as much of a need for Wade’s services.
So baseball owners and players arrived at an agreement last week, narrowly averting a strike. Pardon me if I don’t jump up and sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
While I’m happy the season will come to its rightful end and teams will battle each other in the playoffs, I’m still disgusted it came down to this. Only until days – even hours – before the strike deadline did both sides finally realize how little sense this made to baseball fans, most of whom work their entire lifetimes to make the average Major League Baseball salary of $2.4 million.
While MLB officials and union leaders were behind closed doors in New York, hammering out the details, MasterCard’s ill-conceived “Memorable Moments” campaign was still prominently displayed on television channels across America. I guffawed every time I saw it.
My guess is this year’s near-strike won’t make the list, which is a shame because I thought of something that would work quite nicely: “Baseball owners and players fighting over $3.5 billion in revenues: gutless.”
In some ways, I’m torn. I’m an uncle; my nephew, Jackson, is 21 months. He’s already very good at throwing balls, and now he’s learning to catch them. Soon he’ll be swinging a bat.
Another nephew, Benjamin, is on the way. As uncle, part of my official duty – the part not covered by the “Chase After Them Like a Demented Monster” clause and the “Peanut Butter Is Not a Food Group” subparagraph – is to teach them sports when they are old enough.
Sometime in the future, we’ll be playing baseball in the back yard of my brother and sister-in-law’s house. I’ll be pitching underhanded to one of them, providing fake play-by-play coverage. “With two outs and facing two balls and two strikes, Rochford takes a swing – and it’s a line drive hit sharply to the sandbox!”
Hopefully, they won’t follow the example set by the professionals. I would hate to see future games called off because of a graham-cracker sharing dispute.
OK, the summer’s almost over. Children are going back to school. Now that things are settling down, how about writing a letter to the editor? It can be about anything and it serves two purposes: It gets people thinking and it keeps me from writing columns where I whine about baseball.
Barry Rochford is the editor of the Valley Record.