Salem Camp Ground ready for gath­er­ing

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­

The 185th Salem Camp Meet­ing be­gins on Fri­day, and as fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for the nearly twoweek long event con­tinue, one cou­ple is plenty busy clean­ing, shop­ping, check­ing and re-check­ing ev­ery de­tail -- and a very long shop­ping list.

For Wayne and Kim Hicks, caretakers of the Salem Camp Grounds, pre­par­ing for and help­ing to stage the his­toric an­nual gath­er­ing of the faith­ful is a min­istry. And it’s one that they’ve en­joyed for the past 24 years.

Kim ex­plained that back then, Wayne was asked to help with prepa­ra­tions for the camp meet­ing, since the Salem Camp Grounds’ caretakers were get­ting up in years. Ini­tially, the re­spon­si­bil­ity was for four years, but nearly 20 years af­ter that first four years, the Hick­ses con­tinue to help each year, pre­par­ing for hun­dreds of fam­i­lies who at­tend the camp meet­ing.

For the past cou­ple of months Wayne, his nephew Ricky McCurry and his great-nephew John McCurry have worked to­gether to

be­ing pulled farther over the Class 3 rapid only a few feet down­stream. The stranded peo­ple were about 250-300 yards from where the river dumps into Jack­son Lake.

“The one guy feels fairly con­fi­dent, but the other guy I can tell is gripped with fear,” Lowry said. “They’re strug­gling to stay there and not get swept over the rapid, with one guy kind of push­ing the other guy, if their foot­ing slipped, to help each other stay in po­si­tion.”

The three were all lo­cated much closer to the eastern side of the river, so Lowry and the fa­ther hiked back up to New­ton Fac­tory Bridge Road to cross over. The kayak­ers wouldn’t be able to hold onto any­thing near the two men, but there were some trees on a sub­merged is­land near the woman they were able to at­tach to. While they talked to her, Lowry took his kayak throw bag, which con­tains a 50-foot rope con­nected to a bag, and be­gan throw­ing it, try­ing to reach the men.

Lowry said the men might have been able to sur­vive a tum­ble over the rapids, but he didn’t guess the odds would be any bet­ter than 50-50, given how much rock is be­low the rapids.

Af­ter his first sev­eral tosses came up short, Lowry fi­nally man­aged to reach the first man with the rope. The man be­gan ty­ing the rope to wrap it around his arm, but Lowry had to yell to have him just hold on with his hands.

“The first rule in swift-wa­ter res­cue is do not tie any rope to your­self, be­cause if he ties it to his arm and he were to get away from me, now you have a rope that can get caught on some­thing as well, and then you’re trapped,” Lowry said. “’You need to face to the up­stream side and keep your legs high and kick as hard as you can and swim to­ward me and I’ll pull as hard and fast as I can.’ I think he heard some of that.”

Once the man un­der­stood and had a good hold on the rope, Lowry gave him the OK sign and then took off run­ning back up­stream as fast as he could in an ef­fort to pull him to the other shore as quickly and safely as pos­si­ble.

The man suc­cess­fully crossed the stronger cur­rent and grabbed on to some over­hang­ing limbs as other peo­ple helped pull him up to the shore.

The sec­ond man seemed surer of him­self and Lowry had him care­fully and slowly nav­i­gate a few feet closer to shore. The less­ened dis­tance al­lowed Lowry to toss the rope to the man on the first try.

The third res­cue would

prove more chal­leng­ing. Third time the hard­est

First of all, she was scared.

“(The kayak­ers) kept try­ing to get her from the rock to them; they kept try­ing to get her to a safer po­si­tion, but this young girl was so scared, she was frozen with fear,” Lowry said. “Th­ese peo­ple we res­cued were not boaters. They had no life vests, but were just in in­ner tubes, with (swim suits) and bare­foot.”

Sec­ond, and more im­por­tantly, she was out of rope range. Af­ter a few fu­tile rope tosses, Lowry re­al­ized even two ropes tied to­gether wouldn’t reach her. Luck­ily, an­other kayaker from the orig­i­nal group showed up with his rope.

He headed back up the river, got in and met up with Hodges and gave him the third rope, and then headed farther down­stream to wait in case any­thing went wrong. That process alone took maybe an hour. All the while. the level of the river was slowly ris­ing from up­stream rains.

Hodges tied one end of the first rope to a tree in the river and then tied the two ropes he had to­gether.

He got out of the kayak and went to meet the woman on the rock. At that point in the river, he was still able to stand, and he be­gan slowly work­ing to­ward shore so he could catch the third rope that Lowry threw in the river.

In a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion him­self, Hodges man­aged to tie the ropes to­gether, form­ing a ten­sion rope across half of the Al­covy River.

The orig­i­nal plan was for the woman to pull her­self along the rope un­til she reached Lowry’s rope and then Hodges would un­tie the ropes and she could be pulled to shore. She made it out part way, but when she felt the wa­ter get­ting deeper and the cur­rent get­ting stronger, she stopped.

“She locks up and de­cides she’s not go­ing to move,” said Lowry, who also started to doubt whether she would be able to hang on, any­way.

By this time, some other peo­ple had shown up on the shore, in­clud­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Plan B was formed. Lowry at­tached him­self via cara­bi­neer to the rope and handed it off to the men be­hind him.

“I told them, ‘You can­not let go. I’m at­tached, and I’ll drown’,” Lowry said.

Lowry be­gan travers­ing his way across the river to meet the woman.

“I tell her she’s go­ing to be OK and I’m go­ing to get her across. There’s a fairly fear­ful tremor in her voice and I could barely hear her say, ‘I’m so scared. I have two chil­dren; I just want to see them again.’”

The woman wrapped her right arm around Lowry’s neck and he put his left arm around her waist, with each of them keep­ing one hand on the rope.

“With my right arm, I pull my­self across. I don’t know what hap­pened. I gripped the rope and slid across and never let go. I dragged me and her maybe 30-60 feet. It seemed like a mile,” Lowry said. “When we hit the main flow of the river, it kept pound­ing on me and my head is kind of go­ing un­der wa­ter and I’m try­ing to grab a lit­tle gasp of air and keep go­ing.

“At one point, I just re­mem­ber think­ing how I would do it, but I just went and it worked.”

Lowry, who works in con­struc­tion for the fam­ily busi­ness, said his hands were al­ready rough and weren’t much the worse for the wear.

Some­body on the shore asked the woman if she would get in the wa­ter any­time soon, and she said she wouldn’t even get into a bath­tub, Lowry said.

Lowry said he didn’t think that stretch of river was safe to tube at the level it was and def­i­nitely wasn’t safe un­der any con­di­tion with­out a hel­met or life vest.

“If you’re not white­wa­ter-com­fort­able and don’t have the cor­rect gear and haven’t spent time on rivers, I wouldn’t get in the river if there’s any amount of rain in there,” he said.

Dar­rell Everidge /The Cov­ing­ton News

Cush­ions are carted out to the taber­na­cle at Salem Camp Ground Tues­day.

Dar­rell Everidge /The Cov­ing­ton News

Meals will be served for hun­dreds each day.

Sub­mit­ted photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

Josh Lowry and Justin Hodges are both ex­pert-level kayak­ers.

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