The Ignorant Traveler   

Racy Mom Touts Notorious Wapht Pic

Point Jarvis, NY – May, 2003 – It was a photo that changed 25 years of tradition and tore asunder lifelong friends. It created a worldwide sensation, and commanded gigantic reprint fees. It was a picture of a young family’s reaction to a sight never before seen: grown adult men in a raft – or “wapht” as the craft is generally called.  At long last, the pretty young mother depicted in the photo (along with her two daughters and young son) reveals the hidden truth behind the picture that changed everything.

“How much are you paying me to tell you this story, Cowboy?” Annie “Twirly” Byrd asks teasingly as she gets set to spill her beans about the photo that demonstrated how a close-knit group of river-journeying friends came to be deadly rivals, creating a rift between canooers and waphters larger than Courtney Love’s Hole.

“Maaaaann, it was the funniest, most ridiculous fucking thing I ever saw!” exclaimed Byrd, a self-admitted “salty fresh-water broad who blows canooists every chance I get.” She spoke as she checked the key in her hand against the numbered door, before opening and entering the room with you. “There we were, my daughters Alberta – we call her ‘Alby,’ - and Chrissie Joe- ‘CJ,’ sometimes we tease her and call her ‘Little Mommy’ and my scared little boy Johnny Ponch, he likes to be called ‘Wibby Ponch’ for short. My other little boy Mikey O, he was too scared to even make a waphty trip.”  

Twirly, as she insists you call her, continues, “We’re having a grand family day on the Delly. You know, as a mom with two young daughters and a little boy, we’re scared shitless of even THINKING of using anything besides a wapht. Canoo? With little children? What are you out of your friggin’ gourd-o, Cowboy? Canoos are for guys, men, dudes, and the he-man type. Nuh-uh, no canoos for my kiddies, too much shit-stained laundry if that ever happened. Waphts are for moms and tots, period. Ain’t too proud to admit it.”  

Lips Like an Inner Tube

Settling on one of the full-sized beds in the seen-better-days run-down room, Twirly takes a long pull on a bottle (looks like a fifth) of brown-bagged Seagram’s “7.” She giggles and relates her now-famous river journey. “So here are me and my little tots, Alby, CJ/Little Mommy, and my absolutely terrified boy, Wibby Ponch. He’s bawling a lot so I have to keep smacking him until he shuts up. He’s just terrified of the water, and it pisses me off that he’s in a waphty with his sisters, the little baby is going apeshit. I’m trying to do right by him, make him a man. He eventually stops crying when his lip looks like an inner tube from my repeated smacks. I clocked him a few times with the oar.” She claps her long-nailed hands for emphasis. “That settled the little fucker down.”

“Anyway, we’re doing fine, minding our own business.” Twirly cackles mischievously, “Me? Me, I’m checking out the hardbody guys – the river he-men, canooists, ya know - gliding by, the strong silent types. I’m checking out their rippling muscles and bulging shorts.” She reaches over to squeeze your bicep approvingly. “Boy they sure are a fun, daring bunch, those canoo dudes, slinging beers, carrying on. One of them, he even stood up, took his rather large member out of his shorts (hoo-hoo!), and like fucking George Washington, stood in his canoo and let fly with a stream of beer-piss that would’ve doused the Chicago fire! Now that’s a man – a canooist!”

She swigged and talked, talked and swigged. “A few of them, sure they had problems in the rapids and BOOM, they flipped like a hooker on a massage-a-bed.” She creaked out some cigarette smoke and slugged the “7”. “Hey mister,” she asks suggestively, rubbing her hand across the bed, “do you have some quarters?” You comply and the bed begins buzzing like a bedspread beehive. But as a professional interviewer, and more importantly, as a CANOOER, you continue. You know the score, and you know the score is nigh.

Twirly rambles on. “But the thing is, ya know, with experience comes knowledge, and it was an inspiration to see how beautifully these canoo men regained their wits, recovered, and went right on canooing. More determined than ever to demonstrate their raging manlihood.”  

A Closet Whafter

She turns wistful. “Truth be told, my husband is a wuss-and-a-half, he’s a closet waphter, he talks a good game around his friends, but fact is, he’s a waphting jack-off. I haven’t seen him do it yet, but he sometimes mentions pink clothing.” Twirly pauses for a moment, but that’s all you need to know about her husband: He’s a waphter; there’s an emphatic implied lack of virility or vitality in the relationship. You feel for her; you reach for and lightly touch her hair. She fills her cheeks with “7”, swishes a little, makes an “icky” face and swallows the entire gulp. She eyes you with intent and kicks her shoes off. Like you, she has pink toenails. You’re thinking things could get freaky in a hurry, like a sudden riffle of white water.

The interview continues, you ask Twirly – so, what’s with that photo? – the so-called “shot that stunned the globe”?  “Oh, that picture, shit, I never knew it would be such a big deal. I understand it went out on the newswire and is worldwide now, jeez, I wasn’t prepared for all this,” she indicates your bedside interview tape-recorder and video camera. “I understand one of the canoo rental places used it on a brochure. Hey!” she laughs, “I never got paid for that!”  With conviction, she adds, “But the picture, it’s REAL. We were drifting on our merry aimless way as all waphters do, when all of a sudden, right nearby, another wapht - clearly without manly guidance - floats near, and lo and behold,” she makes blinky-blink eye gestures and rubs her eyes as if to make sure she really saw it. “It was filled with three grown adult men, lolling uncomfortably near one another!” She vigorously shakes her head as if trying to rid it of her bouncing hair, “it was fucking insanity! I’d never seen something so ridiculous, so silly, so, so, UNSEEMLY in my life! On the DELAWARE? This storied water? Grown men bunched in a wapht?!  Holy shit! I KNEW this was a first.  I KNEW this might be my ticket out of the Cedar Ridge trailers.”

She’s laughing uproariously now, nearly spilling her bottle onto the already stained and burbling hotel bedspread. “Some of these men, and I use the term reservedly, it looked like their foots were touching, and they were ENJOYING it! It reminded me of my no-balls pink-think husband! And fuck-all if someone didn’t photograph me, and Alby, and Little Mommie/CJ, and Poncho Wibbles laughing our asses off, both at the men in the waphty and our good fortune of being the first reaction shot of such a silly display!”  Her words were slurring, but she made her intentions clear: “Being here with you, Cowboy, this makes it all worthwhile…hey, big boy, gimme more quarters.” She begins slowly gyrating on the bed and her eyes are spinning back in her head. You know what’s coming but you play out the skein, navigating the seduction, like the solid in-control canooer you are.  

7" Splattering Out

Twirly’s nearly hysterical now, hoo-hahing and jerk-scratching her shoulder in a way that’s making her top loose. “7” is splattering out of the brown bag, she’s licking and swilling in her glee, and she’s casually getting comfy on the churning massage-a-bed. Briefly, her head bows near the nightstand and an enormous snorting sound blares forth. She looks up glassy-eyed, increasingly woozy, absentmindedly brushing her hand near her crotch and tugging at her tousled hair. She shoots a devilish look at your zipper like it’s all-you-can-eat-hot-dog day at Coney Island. Suddenly she lunges at you, her arm like a spear as she grabs towards your johnson. Sensing a dangerously hard grab, you instinctively recoil and she plunges to the floor, legs askew and head wobbling. Standing over and astride her, you unzip your fly, flaunting your johnson. “You want some of this, Twirly, and you’re going to get it by jiminy jones - but not right now.” But you repackage and re-zip. She belches whiskey fumes and cigarette smoke like a porn-queen dragon, pouts naughtily, unbuttons her jeans and now you know…the color of her panties. There ain’t any.

Okay, enough! Let’s finish it up, Twirlster. “Okay, Cowboy, I know, I know, you want to get your interview with the ‘famous picture broad’ before we get on with the real-deal here,” she slurs, innocuously fussing with her crotch. “My daughters shrieked out, ‘mommy, mommy! Look! What are those three men doing in that waphty? You said only women and children use waphties! They’re TOUCHING one another!’ At first all of them were crying, they thought that the men, they should be in a canoo, and that since they were in a waphty, they must be awful afraid and in danger. But when I started laughing, they started laughing, that’s why the photo is so famous: it documents the first reactions of a woman and children seeing men in a wapht for what is likely the first time ever. When I see three men in a wapht - who comes to my mind? My ball-less husband! Home yobbing-off on the couch while mommy’s waphting with the kiddies. That no-balls scumbag! Anyway, one of the so-called men in the waphty, he’s half-passed out, his eyes are half-open and he looks terrible. The two others are rubbing shoulders and rowing clumsily against a headwind. I suppose they are men, they look like men, but I can’t escape the queasy feeling that these are UNMANLY men, indeed.” She reaches a little more gently…and this time gets a handful of johnsonian paydirt. It’s hard – like a canoo. 

She’s finished her tale, naked now and gently buzzing along with the bed beneath her. Sizzling like an almost-done sausage. She’s enjoying the hell out of herself, far away from her waphting hubby. “Look at you Cowboy, I can tell you’re a canooer, daring, unafraid, forthright, hard. The Canooin’ Cowboy! That’s you!“ You nod, unselfconsciously flapping your tongue like an anteater. She smiles and mimics the waggle. “That’s why you’re in here at the Comfy Inn about to stoke hot mama and get yer ya-ya piped, while the waphting wussles are sucking down abuse and talkin’ girly talk.”

Twirly’s fading, almost out. She makes a vain move for another for another nightstand blast, but you reach over and instead stub her ash-laden cigarette. You turn off your audio recorder and turn on the videocam. You chuckle and think to yourself, “nice piece of ass. And all thanks to a bunch of woobies who decided to waphty.” You bow your head briefly at the nightstand, and brazen Canooin’ Cowboy that you are, then pounce like a jackrabbit onto the prone wapht-babe. It’s a seedy trailerish scene, played out too many times before, but all is right in the manly world you dominate. Because you’re a Canooer – you’re the Canooin’ Cowboy; and you don’t goes with the flows, you ares the flows.

-- Richard Sheppard