Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Somehow 'Once bitten, twice shy' never sunk its teeth

Crunch Time


What are those old axioms: “Once bitten, twice shy,” or “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me?”

They came to mind as I was trying to figure out what to write in this space. I was racing to get a week’s worth of writing — plus a string of stories for the Cheney Rodeo — completed so I could have yet another week of vacation, after just returning from one.

When you read this, I’ll hopefully be on the home stretch of another “bucket-list” check-off, running the Rogue River down in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon.

That will have meant our party has successfully negotiated one of the channels of Rainie Falls, boat-eating Blossom Bar and a number of other rapids on what is one of the first streams that earned Wild and Scenic River designation 50 years ago this Oct. 2.

Amazing to think that my river running adventures easily go back at least 40 of those years.

But when thinking back to my beginnings in this endeavor that has allowed me to run some of the most special streams in the world — The Main Salmon, Middle Fork of the Salmon and Selway to name a few — I wonder just how the hell I got back on some of those horses to make it this far?

My first true whitewater activity was getting involved in the old Kettle Falls Jaycees Kettle River Raft race in about 1978. Three of us jammed ourselves into what we now call “K-Mart coffins,” a euphemism for a cheapo plastic raft.

All was good until up ahead, there was a horizon line of water and the roar of not just the river but probably a couple hundred spectators who lined “The Narrows,” the only notable rapid on the river.

I’ll never forget the bystander on shore telling us there was “One bucking bronco ahead.”

Armed with just two paddles for the three of us, but at least having lifejackets, we hit the rapid with no idea how to negotiate it. As we careened towards the nasty rocks on the left side of the river I decided to try to push away on a rock — the same time and place my buddy jammed his paddle.

I think I nearly lost my little finger, but more concerning was the deep gash at the first knuckle with NO first aid kit. That was a most painful eight-mile paddle to the finish.

Subsequent adventures would see four friends jump in two of those boats, plus a spare for carrying gear — and beer — well under estimated how long it took to float the Grand Ronde River in Northeast Oregon in low flows in July of 1980.

But the biggest takeaways there was that the air that you put in at the Shell gas station on the way to the river does not always remain in the raft — particularly when its cheap skin is punctured by something sharp in the water.

Oh, and that it is good to always take a roll of duct tape, and that a pump, no matter how cheap, beats trying to put air back into the boat taking turns blowing into it.

Over the years I’ve watched newbies carefully venture down the river the first-time riding with me or in a borrowed boat, only to see them with a stable of rafts a few years later.

Diving into the river running addiction — and it is to an extent — is easy to do.

How could trading the power of gravity to take the place of leg power to get one into spectacular wilderness not be?

I love the idea of feasting on my Dutch oven meatloaf, accompanied by a glass of red wine, in a chair while watching the river go by. For me, it beats finding a rock as a lounge chair while seeing if the right amount of water was added to the freeze-dried whatever meal in the foil pouch while backpacking.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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