Shades of “Deliverance”

Click here for background music of “Dueling Banjos” of “Deliverance”….


See the hand coming out of the water?  Look familiar?  Well, for you diehard movie fans, that was what loomed out of the river at the end of  the movie, “Deliverance,” when one of the 4 men, Ed, is tortured psychologically by what happened on the river.  He sees a dead man’s hand rise above the water and wakes up screaming. 

The 4 Atlanta businessmen were supposed to go on a river trip for the weekend,’ back to the wild,’ to raft, run the rapids, fish, and generally enjoy.  But we know what really happened in those woods, and we’ve all never forgotten the “Dueling Banjos” that we all hear whenever someone mentions “Deliverance.” 

Well, recently, Husband and company went on their own canoe trip down the Wood River, in Exeter, Rhode Island, and while it didn’t quite provide “Deliverance” horror, it delivered in other ways….


Yes, Husband determined to take the canoe out with 2 buddies. He’d checked out the river the week before and determined all was a “Go.”  He got good friend, Ralph, to go along. The men are 70 and 66 respectively.  Rounding out the trio was a 14-year old grandson, Sebastian.

First off, the storms of summer tore asunder trees and uprooted bushes, spewing them into the river, choking the flow. Because the water was shallow, they had to pick their way over boulders and debris, doing far more of “portage” than actual canoeing. At one point, they dragged it almost one quarter of a mile through the woods and around a dam…not easy, since the combined weight of canoe and gear was probably 100 lbs.

Five minutes into their trip, these expert river-runners upended the canoe, getting all 3 soaked. Apparently, someone forgot the instability of a canoe and moved the wrong way.  End result?  The canoe pitched them violently, requiring they spend the next hour retrieving fishing poles and supplies deposited in the deep muck of the riverbed.

Ralph lost his sunglasses, while both men wrecked their cell phones (grandson wisely left his in the truck, out of harm’s way.)

Husband suffered lacerations as the canoe came down hard on his shin-bone.  His bloodied sock told me the river trip hadn’t been a resounding success.  When I asked “What happened?” he simply said:  “What happens on Wood River stays on Wood River” (mimicking the famous Las Vegas line).

Later in the evening, daughter called to ask how the trip went.  She couldn’t get any information out of her son (he was honoring the Men’s Code of Silence). It was then he had to share their dishonor:  “The river had beaten them 5 minutes out of the gate.”

It had been a grueling few hours and they needed to keep at it, since they’d parked the truck far downstream and been ferried to the starting point. They saw others enjoying the deeper parts of the river, merely boating in the open, but they, true River-Runners needed to continue their dogged efforts.

Limbs in the river and boulders whose true girth lay submerged (like icebergs) made quick travel impossible.  At points, the depth of the river was a mere few inches while overhead branches pressed low, necessitating they lay flat (backwards) in the canoe, to pass.

Considering their combined weight was 600 lbs. (500 of human weight), the canoe groaned under the burden.

Did they have ‘fun’? Well, after carrying all the gear to the river’s edge, depositing, being pitched, recovering, portaging, hunkering down to avoid whiplash effect of  branches, and catching no fish…they still say “Yes.”

When I question him as to “Why?” he just grins.

That’s when I ponder the age-old axiom that  “Men definitely are a different breed.”

Right now, in the background, I hear the humming of the hairdryer in the bathroom.  He’s got it poised on his battery and phone, in attempts to resuscitate them. 

Now, if he could only do this with his dignity………….

***Have your own “Deliverance” story?  Fell free to share with Comment section below…How’d I get the hand shot coming out of the water above?  I made Husband get back into that Wood River a few days later to recreate the feel. When he protested “But it’s cold,” I said, “Get in there–I need the shot.” 

Besides, haven’t we always heard it’s best to confront something that’s beaten you? 

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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