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  • Writer's pictureKelly Romo

Behind DEAD DRIFT: If It Looks Like Bull and It Smells Like Bull...

What do whitewater rafting, Cheech and Chong, special brownies, and a rodeo have in common? (the answer is below)


I went to a little rafting town to interview whitewater guides for my novel, DEAD DRIFT. I had already taken a couple of trips down the river and wanted to learn more about what they do once they are off the river. I was interested in seeing how they handle customers and their process of putting away all the gear. I offered to pay them, but I was told that wouldn't be necessary. I just needed to bring a bottle of Jack Daniels. I brought two and was told to toss them into a cooler filled with beer.

I spent most of that time observing and taking mental notes. Once they finished with the customers, everyone dove into the ice chest. I'm more of a wine girl, but I had a Hamm's. It was the first beer I ever finished, and it was warm by the time I did. On a side note, I just learned that they call Hamm's beer a "Hamm's Canwich."

After everything was cleaned and put away in the boathouse, I figured I would head to my motel room and write everything down. Instead, the guides invited me to join them at a local rodeo about fifteen miles away. I'm always up for an adventure, so I said yes. They grabbed the ice chest filled with beer and whiskey and headed to a white van. To their credit, they did find a designated driver.

Oh...and someone brought brownies. I love brownies.


I jumped into one of those long vans that churches and correctional departments use. They let me have the front passenger seat next to the designated driver, and we hit the road. About a mile later, I smelled something coming from the back seats. Something very distinct and aromatic. Soon, the van was filled with pot smoke. I was there to observe, and everyone was an adult, so I went along with the ride. That was when I noticed the flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror.

I started to panic as the designated driver pulled to the side of the busy highway...which, of course, meant the officer came to the passenger side window. My window.

Remember that scene where Cheech and Chong get pulled over, and their van is filled with pot smoke? Yeah...that was me. As I lowered the window, my entire teaching career passed before my eyes. I imagined the headlines: Local teacher arrested for hotboxing in a van with a bunch of whitewater rafting guides.

I sat there, frozen stiff and staring forward, as the officer and driver talked across me. Things were removed from the glove box and handed to the officer, but I didn't move a muscle. The back of the van was silent. I imagined a guide or two with a lungful of smoke and their face turning red, afraid to breathe it out. I have no idea why, but the stars must have been in alignment, or the wind blew from the right direction because he let us go with nothing but a warning about a broken taillight.


Remember the brownies that I mentioned above? And how I ate one? Well, I started feeling funny. At first, I thought it was from the shock of being pulled over. Come to find out, the brownie was not a regular type of brownie. They assumed I knew that. I'm used to the free brownies in the teacher's lounge, and the only thing I ever worried they may be laced with was ex-lax.


We did not buy tickets and enter the rodeo like most people. We had some sort of a backlot parking pass and had to navigate fences to get in. The first fence was the racetrack fence...with a bareback race in progress. We climbed over and dashed across in-between horses. The second fence was the bullpen, where we would be watching the rodeo.

That was about when the brownie really started kicking in. I followed the guides over, and we watched the rodeo right from the perimeter of the arena. It was awesome being so close to the action that we could see the sweat on the cowboys' faces. Bulls charged and bucked so close to the rail that their spit and snot flung through onto us. The image below is a good representation. Bulls also roamed loose behind us and could charge or pin us to the rail at any time they wished. I needed to keep my wits about me, but I had no idea exactly how high I would get from the brownie.


None of my pot-brownie-induced paranoias came true. I was not arrested. I was not trampled by a bull. And the guides did not accidentally (or purposely) leave me at the rodeo. They invited me to go "naked rafting" with them sometime in the future before nicely dropping me off at my motel unharmed. I never thought I would be so grateful to open the door to the smell of stale cigarettes and clean sheets.

Finally, here is the answer to my riddle.

Q: "What do whitewater rafting, Cheech and Chong, special brownies, and a rodeo have in common?"

A: "One tired writer who wouldn't lose her day job--and loved every minute of it."

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1 Comment

Ryan Romo
Ryan Romo
Apr 18, 2022

I love this story so much 😂

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