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Sawyer Story – “Lost and…found”

Mid-life crisis at the age of 53… 10 years of rafting with the old grey 13′ Avon bucket and suddenly a need for more, bigger, hyper-aerated  whitewater. So, researching the reviews, we set about purchasing  a set of Sawyer Squaretops as the base oar-set for the new 15′ family Avon Expedition… while the neighbors are driving new Lexus’ and Mercedes, we’re driving a camouflage green Avon with Squaretops stuffed into the back of a paint-flaking, gas-gargling behemoth  1994 Chevy Suburbasaurus. But, the neighbors will just never see it – because they aren’t out there. At all.

Second trip out with the new rig was close to 4x normal flows on the usually reasonably exciting, yet controlled South Fork American River due to a big snow year… 5,500 CFS of raging snowmelt and an extremely fun run of the Chili Bar section. At put-in, the River Patrol checked in for a little chat regarding the higher flows, relative experience levels and  safety considerations for a family of four out for a Sunday drive with super  dog “Gretchen” proudly wearing her field-modified PFD with more than half her weight in floatation. Ready, set, gone!

Troublemaker happened fast and everything that wasn’t bolted down, came loose. Everything that was bolted down, came loose. Family flying, water rushing, sky exploding and Gretchen grimacing; toenails buried to the fur in ethafoam. Oar work had been chopped down to reactive prevention and Gunsight, normally a regularly visible granite beacon of progress was a mere speed-bump on the highway of marginally managed mayhem…
All said and done: still had a family, still had a wife that would talk to me and Gretchen knows that I pay for the dog food at home, so no abandonment there – quite yet. Cursory check of the deck showed all systems in place and… WAIT! Missing the spare oar. But, not any spare oar – a brand new Sawyer Squaretop without any sort of identifying marks at all due to the absolute newness of said oar. Floated off cart-wheeling in all of its new car smell glory, never to be seen again, try hard as we might to locate it. Couple hours spent lamenting the loss as we checked every strainer for half a mile or so for a glimpse of that sexy wood/carbon combination. Bummer. Real tears… and the sound of my lovely wife’s words echoing in my one remaining water addled ear “It’s just an oar…”
But, oh well. We still had each other.

Forward three weeks and now the yellow Jeep is loading up for a trip to Montana and Idaho – all girls accounted for and Gretchen is already in the back seat sans PFD. A phone call. A quizzical look and then a quiet “you’re kidding. Really?” uttered in disbelief. Our favorite purveyor of Avon products (thanks Clavey, we don’t use much lipstick) giving us a call to ask if we “by chance” lost a Squaretop on the American a few weeks prior… figure the odds. Very same River Patrol (Joshua, you out there?) that talked to us as we completed Meatgrinder had evidently made mental note of our rig – camouflage green Avon and some bright and shiny Squaretops… the kind that flex, dig and relay all of that beautiful water-energy information into my waiting arms.

He found the oar floating in some brush after water levels dropped and made the 6th degree connection – not many new Squaretops out there, and even fewer adorning camouflage-green Avons. What are the odds? Call the distributor, Clavey. Sold any green Avons with Squaretops lately? Figure the odds. Why yes, they have… and thus a phone call on a warm summer morning as we pack the rig to head out on yet another adventure. Reunited at the Lotus Henningsen Park storage locker – why yes, that is her, sir. And thank you.
It means a lot to me. But, not so much my neighbors, because a Squaretop doesn’t fit in a Porsche. At all.

By Bruce Mace

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