Saturday, June 7, 2008

Five Mile Bar: home of Buckskin Bill

Our sojourn today started slow and peaceful, drifting by a couple of camps on the river's north side and running a pair of no name rapids. Our first thrill of the day came at mile 50-- Boise Bar Rapid, a Class II+ to III. The left side was littered with rocks so we ran the center. Hiding at the bottom right was a boat flipping hole. I followed the others, paddling left to avoid the obstacle.
Later we beached our boats at Buckskin Bill's place. Everyone stops here as the trading post offers a big beach, self guided tours of the mountain man's homestead and a little store where you can buy bags of ice, soda and ice cream. The place is like a museum with plenty of old pictures and relics of guns, bullets and tools made by the man. High on the hillside stands a tower that Bill built of rock and cement. Bill had feared the government would come and take his property. From the top we could see the encampment on the left, the beach the river in both directions. For a brief moment I imagined standing at Bill's side staring down his enemies.
On our way to the beach we came upon a bomb shelter that was built of stone and concrete, a musty cavern large enough for 3-4 adults. We made our way to the museum and gift shop that once was Bill's home and guesthouse. The furnishings were still intact. We could look but not touch.
We were summoned to the museum to watch a video on a small TV where we watched Curt Gowdy from ABC's Wide World of Sports in 1963 interviewing Buckskin Bill. The producers wanted to see him shoot his home made guns. It was fun to hear the mountain man speak in his deep, gruff tone. "Umm-humm," Bill repeated as he replied to Gowdy's questions.
"What kind of gun is this?" Gowdy said.
"30 millimeter," Bill said.
"And what kind of bullets does it shoot?"
"Round bullets, umm-humm," Bill answered. "It's got double triggers."
"Looks like it's got a lot of kick," Gowdy said.
Bill pulled the first trigger, then took a deep breath, bracing himself against a big rock, aiming at something in the distance. With the pull of the second trigger there was a loud explosion, the rifle recoiled and pushed Bill back, but he quickly regained his balance.
We all laughed.
The stop here isn't complete without a group photo taken on the steps that lead to the beach. Do we look like a bunch of river rats?

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