So after retrieving the kayak from the Androscoggin, the boys put it in our barn and waited for the snow to melt.
It wasn't long before the snow melted and Archie and Brent were taking the kayaks on trips down the river with the cat along for companionship. Brent is Archie's best friend and has been living with us for the past three months and as honorary family member, I've been letting him use my kayak. My kayak is slightly bigger than Archie's and has a watertight storage container built into the bow. Jaeger seemed to like the excursions, he would sit in a lap or if he wanted to see the scenery, he would perch on the bow. The boys would stop often and go onto the bank for him to eat and drink.
One day after school, Archie decided that they should take the kayaks up the Webb River and float down to Dixfield. The Webb is a smaller river with more rocks and rapids and flows into the Androscoggin near our house.
So up the river they went in a friend's pickup truck and they put in just over the Carthage line. The water was flat and peaceful, the day was sunny, Jaeger spent time jumping from the bow of one kayak to the bow of the other. One time he spotted a flock of Canada Geese on the shore and jumped into the water, swam 20 feet to shore and chased the much larger, meaner and heavier birds. It was an idyllic Spring day--two boys, a river and a cat.
Then the water started to get a little choppy. As a precaution, they opened the watertight hatch on Brent's kayak and without the top on put Jaeger in. He peered out from his hatch as the boys paddled.
Then just as they were about to enter a rapid, Brent shut the hatch. Somehow as he followed Archie through the rapid, he capsized and was dumped out to navigate the rapid without a kayak seriously injuring his knee on the rocks. Archie who was in front, looked back, saw the capsized boat and his friend going through the rapids and realizeded that Jaeger was stuck inside the capsized boat. He left his friend to fend for himself and swam back upstream to rescue the cat. The kayak was jammed upside down between some rocks. He wasn't able to right the kayak from the downstream side as the vacuum pressure was too strong, but he managed to get to the upstream side and break the seal and right the boat. He opened the hatch and Jaeger popped right into his arms, right as rain.
So, Jaeger was safe. Archie put him to sit on a rock in the middle of the river while he got the empty kayak back to shore and then went to check on Brent who had pulled himself to the opposite shore. Brent was not able to move his knee (and even now 4 weeks later is still limping). It took Archie 20 minutes to get Brent across the river where they realized that both of their cell phones had been submerged. Jaeger was retrieved from the rock and left to stay with Brent while Archie hiked off to find a house and a phone and someone with a truck to get them all home.
What was there to say as they shared this story with me? Words failed me, I could only listen in amazement and relief that everyone was alright (with the exception of Brent's knee).
I like the part of the story best, where the water is calm and the cat is swimming and chasing Canada Geese --pretty music in my mind for those scenes but the rapids and the injuries feel like they are accompanied by loud dissonant chords.
All is well that ends well, I guess.
Jaeger still canoes and kayaks and goes fishing, camping and hiking. He is their companion and not at all an ordinary cat.