Lake Amistad, Del Rio, Texas
Have you ever been Really scared? I mean the kind of scared that makes you grab on to something just to keep you from fallin' slam down. Well I have! It just happened, and I'm still wet.
See--I work here at the Diablo East Marina on mighty Lake Amistad, and I'm finally about to finish a little favor for my new friend, Tony.
This is my first summer to work here as what they call a "dock boy," and that's also true of my long-time friend, Bill D. However, for Tony and Wayne, it's their second summer. So, I guess Bill and I will never catch up to what Tony and Wayne know. That's ok, though, because there are plenty of other things that Bill and I know but about which Wayne and Tony don’t have a clue.
Anyway, I'm sittin' here drippin' wet in this little aluminum John boat. It's about 11:00 PM on this warm August night, and I'm laughin' at myself for a very good reason!
It all started a few days ago when Tony Bolner asked me to take over his little lake survey job while he’s away in San Antonio finishing his SCUBA certification. I’ve done this with him several times, and it’s not unlike my friend Doug’s Brazos River survey job over near College Station. Of course, in Tony’s case, he isn’t concerned with the water level. That’s important when Doug and I check the river from the Highway 60 bridge just west of the Easterwood Airport, but, here at Lake Amistad, they already measure that very precisely over at the dam.
For Tony’s job, he’s been assigned an instrument that he uses to measure oxygen levels and temperatures of the lake water as he lowers a silver-looking probe down over the side of the boat.
The little wooden box that houses the meters is sittin’ here in the floor of the boat, and I can finally read the numbers. Why can I FINALLY read the numbers? Because I FINALLY have some light!
See, what happened was this: I gathered up Tony’s stuff, put it all in the boat and puttered out here into the back of the slue that houses our wonderful Diablo East Marina. Back here I’m like in “no-man’s land.” It’s far away from the lights of the marina, and town is 10-12 miles away. Further, there is NO moon tonight--just stars to provide enough light to see where I’m steering the boat.
I originally got back here to the first spot where the readings are supposed to be taken twice a day every day, dropped the little anchor, filled the first water sample bottle and started putting out the probe. Once I got the probe down to the deepest mark – just above the bottom and about twelve feet down, I picked up the little yellow flashlight and guess what!
Yep! No light! It didn’t work at all!!! Nada!
So, being like a really lousy boy scout, I had no back up. I also did not want to chug all the way back to the marina to pick up another flashlight from my car. So, in the almost pitch-black dark, I took the flashlight apart, put it back together and tried to get it to turn on again. Usually that works, but this time – nothin’!
Well, you might as well know that I have a pretty violent temper. My dad tells me that he had one too and that he had to learn to control it. Of course, he was tellin’ me that I needed to learn how to control mine too, but to date, I don’t! So, I got really hacked off and threw the dang flashlight overboard!
Then I got busy tryin’ to read the meters with nothin’ but a little starlight to illuminate the dials. That lasted about 10 minutes, and I wasn’t sure if I was reading the needles correctly when I looked out over the side of the boat and got the scare of my life.
All around me, in about a twenty foot circle, the surface of the water was glowing! I mean REALLY glowing!
Now, I’ve wondered about UFO’s and aliens from other solar systems for a long time. That started back in the eighth grade when I bought a paper back book from the annual book club and read all about UFO sightings and crashes – especially around Texas!
Well, when I saw the water glowing like that, all I could think was that I had disturbed a flying saucer either under the water or above my head! THAT, my friends, scared the patootie out of me!
I must have turned white enough to almost outshine the flying saucer, but that only lasted long enough to get even scareder after hearing a loud shriek out in the brush near the water’s edge. For a second there I thought my heart would just Blow Up from the spike of fear that hit me at that moment! It’s a good thing I’m just 20 years old. Otherwise, you’d be looking at a room-temperature corpse right now! MAN, that scared me!!!
After a minute or two, I noticed that no aliens were coming up out of the water, out of the nearby brush our down from of the sky, and I began to settle down. In fact, I settled down just enough to THINK for a second.
“DANG! It’s that FLASHLIGHT!” I thought.
Then I said to my self, “Self! YOU--are an IDIOT!”
Well, once I got through havin’ a good laugh on myself, I started diggin’ in the floor of the boat for my skin diving mask and my fins – which I recently bought from Tony when he upgraded to a better pair. Unless I can’t help it, I never jump in one of these boats without my mask, snorkel and fins. There have been way too many opportunities to use them in this warm, clear water this summer. So, I don’t leave them behind.
Also, I never come out here without already wearin’ something I can swim in. So, after I stripped off my shirt, I was ready to take a little dive and retrieve that shinin’, glowin’, magical, alien flashlight.
Once I entered the water, though, I couldn’t see anything but yellow-green glow. I guess the water looks clear in the daytime because the sun is shinin’ Down through it, but when the light is comin’ up from the bottom, well, that creates a very different effect. All I could do was dive down and try to guide myself toward the center of the brightest part of the glow, and that I did.
As I got to about ten feet down, the pressure building up on my face reminded me to blow a little extra air into the mask to equalize. That delayed me for a few seconds because I’ve never been able to do two things at once. Like, they invented that “chew gum and walk” thing just for me!
After getting the pain of the extra pressure fixed, I continued on down a few more feet. Then, finally, a very interesting scene opened up before my very eyes.
I saw that D-Cell flashlight lying on the bottom of the lake, right there in the mud, shinin’ it’s little heart out. It was under a dead little bush and it and all the other little bushes for about eight feet around were all glowing from the silly little invader light! It almost seemed like the flashlight and its little bushes were laughin’ at me! And why not! I AM an idiot! Ha!
I left the flashlight glowin’ all the way back up to the boat and gently dropped it over the side. Then I used my arm strength and the push of my kicking fins to thrust me up high enough to fall myself on over into the boat along side “Little Shiny” the flashlight.
Then, “Little Shiny” assisted me well in taking all the required readings here at this wonderful little spot in the back waters of Lake Amistad.
Now, all I have to do is pray that “Little Shiny” keeps on glowin’ long enough to get the readings out at the deep spot in the middle of the slue.
And I guess I have to keep on being willing to laugh at myself whenever required.
In my case, THAT “skill” is required a LOT!
- Present Day -
Tony Bolner was such a interesting and fun person, but unfortunately, his life was cut short along with two others in a tragic flying accident. Just after take off, the Civil Air Patrol aircraft in which they were flying had an equipment failure that caused it to pitch up uncontrollably. When it stalled out over the runway at Del Rio International Airport, there was nothing the pilot could do but watch the Earth rush up at him.
The aircraft hit the ground next to the runway at a very high rate of descent, and all three individuals, including my friend, Tony, were killed instantly.
So, I would very much like to dedicate this story to young Tony Bolner – a friend to many and a true blessing to my life.
Rest in Peace, Tony.
William Richard Meredith