Right around the age of 30, I decided to disclose a few of my childhood experiences to my mother. God Rest her Soul; she was not prepared for those dreadful tales of death-defying adventure. I can still remember the look in her eyes as the blood drained from her face. Thank God I didn’t tell my mom about the really scary stuff, huh!

As far back as I can remember, my mother was always worried I might drown. I had to sneak away with my friends to enjoy the beautiful lake just a couple of blocks away from our home. I’ll add this; growing up less than two blocks away from Flathead Lake was an incredible experience.

Even though Flathead Lake is a natural lake, a hydroelectric power dam was constructed during the Great Depression. Opened in 1938, Kerr Dam is taller than Niagra Falls at 205 feet in height. The dam provides power and serves recreational and irrigation uses. The dam is located within the Flathead Indian Reservation, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes purchased the dam in 2015. Afterward, the name was changed to Semi’s Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam.

There’s a small island on Flathead River below Polson and above the dam. Not more than 100 feet across, the tiny island is nothing more than a rocky outcrop protruding from the surface of the water. As you can see in the picture, the island is mostly barren of vegetation. Although, I do remember a small tree from my youth.

Yes, not only did my friends and I swim to the island, but we camped for the weekend. Without a boat or even a float tube, we paddled our sleeping bags, fishing gear, and equipment through the current to the rocky campsite. I’m sure we had at least one .22 Caliber Rifle with us as well.

I thought my mother was going to faint when I told her this story. I didn’t make that mistake again. I realized then; she didn’t want to know anyway. Sometimes full disclosure isn’t healthy, even when we’re dealing with the past.

Something to think about, huh. What are our children really doing? Hopefully, not swimming out to a river island like good ol’ Huckleberry F*****g Finn!

Joseph Shanklin

July 31, 2021

3 thoughts on “Growing Up On The Reservation [The River Island]

  1. Being a mom, I can imagine the terror. What we really wish is to lock them up inside their rooms so we can protect them for the rest of their lives. That’s not gonna happen and would be a terrible life for them, but I still would like to do this. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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