Legend of the falls: Latest tumble at Cascade Creek proves farmer's wisdom on prophylactic pain relief

Last Updated by Kevin Woster on
The slick bluff top and drop-off that almost was

It's odd what you think about sliding on your back toward a 12-foot drop into a creek.

In my case, it was a farmer from Holabird, and ibuprofen.

OK, OK, I wasn’t really thinking about them during the actual slide. I was considering the vision of my rod and reel flying off to the side and the potential effects of a back-flop into Cascade Creek — or worse, into the tangle of stumps and logs and thick rose bushes immediately below the little bluff.

I mean the little bluff I was sliding down, toward the edge, after losing my footing in Three-Stooges style up on the promontory of the clay knob.

After 10 feet or so, I finally dug the heels of my wader boots deep enough into the slick slope and grabbed enough passing mud and grass to stop myself short of the drop-off. I was initially a lot more occupied by my suddenly aching back and butt and shoulders and neck than I was by Nick Nemec and his philosophy on advanced pain relief.

But once I collected at least some of my senses, I got there.

Like other farmers, Nemec — a former state legislator who sometimes stops to shovel conversation and plow philosophy on social-media sites — has regular use for pain relief and inflammation control.

Lugging feed bags, wrestling lug nuts, doing the cha-cha with testy cows and slogging through mud or snow to manhandle a bawling calf can make the muscles ache and the joints stiffen.

So he sometimes pops a pill or two — ibuprofen —in advance, when he knows such pain-producing events are likely. He mentioned the trick recently on his Facebook page. And I should have paid more attention.

I think landing flat on your back when the dry-on-top, wet-beneath clay betrays your footing qualifies as a pain-inducing event. So does going into animated, flailing body contortions to stop your slide, while odd, high-pitched whimpers escape your mouth.


Or something like that.

First, you look around to see if anybody saw and heard. Then you give quiet thanks for isolation and find some actual words:

In this case they were: “I’m gonna wish I had some of Nemec’s prophylactic ibuprofen in me.”

I often do.

Trips, slips and falls, after all, are not that unusual for me during my hunting and fishing adventures.  Not meaning to boast, but I have a bit of a reputation in that regard. A bit of a flair, too.

After the latest fall and slide, I rolled on my side, located the rod and reel lying where I’d lost or tossed them — I can’t clearly recall which — 10 feet above me and slowly, carefully reconstructed myself into a mostly upright 65-year-old.

All told, it could have been worse on my first trip of the year back to Cascade Falls, a gorgeous little artesian tumble on Cascade Creek about eight miles south of Hot Springs. If you haven’t been to the U.S. Forest Service picnic area there and the fishing/swimming/pondering/photographing spot on the creek below, go. Soon. It’s worth it.

The creek collects itself a couple miles up gradient at the largest natural upwelling of spring water in the Black Hills. Cascade Springs is an enchanting little escape along Highway 71, where the artesian water emerges at 67 degrees.

It’s not that warm when it tumbles over the falls, or when it organizes itself again into a smooth-flowing stream squeezed in between steep banks and thick vegetation during its last mile of flow to the Cheyenne River. But it’s still pretty warm. So you can cast there all year.

You can fall in anytime, too, as I’ve proven once or twice before.

This time I went there, in theory, to fish for smallmouth bass. But I was too lazy to rig up the fly rod and the beaded, brown woolly bugger the smallies there can't seem to resist. So I pitched the same white-and-black jig I was casting with my light spinning outfit a half hour earlier for walleyes on nearby Angostura Reservoir.

The smallmouth followed and pestered the jig, but wanted something smaller and slower. So I gave up the casting and strolled downstream to visit my old iPhone, the one that drowned late last fall, just before winter set in.

That was another Ibuprofen moment, with a bit of hypothermia thrown in. I dropped the iPhone after I crouched to take a picture on a bank above the creek. And as it slid on the vegetation toward the edge, I reached to grab the phone and, like any responsible owner, followed it into the water -- clear water, of course, that looked not nearly as deep as it was. And I came within a desperate last grasp of the iPhone as it fluttered, just inches out of reach, casually toward the bottom.

My flailing stab at the phone took me underwater up to my neck. And my waders — their top opening like a funnel without the always-helpful mid-torso constriction from the wading belt I had left in the basement at home — were quickly filling with water that hardly seemed warm on a 20-something-degree day.

So I decided against a full-fledged dive for the phone, sputtered my way back to the bank and clawed up to dry ground and on up to the bluff top. With a mournful glance back at the creek, I marched stiff-legged as the Tin Man back to the pickup.

So, the phone was left where it settled. And it lies there now, resting peacefully, covered by a fine layer of silt. Equipped with a new iPhone, I stopped Wednesday afternoon to pay my respects to the old one. It seemed like the right thing to do. But first I walked to a promontory above the creek to survey the smallmouth below.

Now, people who know me know I struggle to multi-task. And I have almost no ability to focus on both fish and, well, anything else simultaneously. So a half step into my bass survey, I was airborne, my feet flying up and out, my back and butt slamming into the bank.

You know by now that I stopped short of the drop-off, which was a cause for celebration. So was the fact that the new iPhone was safe in a pouch inside my waders and, in addition, I seemed not to have broken or torn anything important.

A few minutes later I was crouched up in the creek above the falls, where a lovely little bowl of flowing water made the perfect place to scrub the mud from my hands and arms and the back of my waders.

So I looked roughly presentable as I staggered up the wooden stairs to the picnic area and slogged back to the pickup parked along Highway 71. There I searched the glove box and found Tic Tacs, toilet paper, Band-aids and an assortment of shotgun shells.

But not a single ibuprofen tablet.

So the aches and throbs intensified during the drive home. And as I climbed out of the pickup in the driveway, I was moving very much like a 65-year-old guy who should have followed that Holabird farmer’s sage advice.

Maybe next time. And there will be a next time.

It's what I do.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of SDPB, Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting, or the State of South Dakota.