Photos by Harrison Sutcliffe

Early Kings River Memories

One of my earliest memories of the Kings River came as a young child about the age of 4 near Keels Creek on the Kings River. On a hot summers day, my father (The original Riverman) took my sisters and I to the river for an afternoon of swimming and fishing. He was dressed in cut off jean shorts, army boots, no shirt, binoculars around his neck and had a Mitchell Garcia fishing reel and pole in hand. I thought he was the coolest thing ever. My Dad!!! He was an avid smallmouth bass fisherman and came from a family of biologist/naturalist. He and mom had just caught a bucket of crawdads for that days fishing adventure. He decided to take a walk down river to do a little fishing. He started down river and little did he know that I was following after him. His long strides soon left me behind, but that was no matter as I was going to catch up with him and his metal bucket full of crawdads no matter what. I slowly trudged up the river without my Mom being aware of where I was going. Suddenly I stepped into a deep pool and found myself sinking to the gravel at the bottom. I remember, like it was yesterday, the ripples of the clear cool water going by and the small minnows that were swimming back and forth in front of my face. It happened so quickly that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening but after the initial shock, I was calm. What felt like forever was only a few minutes and then everything was starting to get dark. Then it went black. I felt at peace. The next memory I had was sitting on the hood of my dad’s green 1970 Chevy step side pickup as he was patting me on the back telling me to cough. “You’re going to be ok son.” I could see my mom in a panic next to him and then hear her choice words for my father as the water was clearing from all of the orifices in my head. Since that day, I’ve had a fascination and special connection to the Kings River. To this very day I feel at home on the river. I feel its pulse so to speak. I long for it when I’m away. Drawn to it.  My dad always reminded me that I caused him to ruin his expensive pair of binoculars. My mom always reminded my dad that he almost caused her only son to drown. I was lucky that day in more ways than one. Over the years my family and my kids have had many great days on the Kings River catching crawdads, hellgrammites, and smallmouth bass. Not one of my kids have drowned following me up the river either. I told my wife that when I die, my wishes are for her to cremate my body and sprinkle my ashes across the river down from Keels Creek at my favorite fishing hole near where I almost drowned. The hole where a huge tree protrudes through a huge boulder below a large bluff. She said she would gladly do that so the smallmouth bass would eat me and get a little pay back. Turnabout is fair play.

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