Rebel Rebel

A Gen-X story about kayaking, the Whiskey Rebellion, and David Bowie

Sherrie Flick
Heated
Published in
14 min readSep 4, 2020

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A kayak on top of a car.
Photos: Sherrie Flick

Embark on a guided float trip that is wacky and irreverent while paying tribute to the 1790s Whiskey Rebellion. We’ll tell the story of this historically significant rebellion in an entirely new way — by hearkening the voice of David Bowie. Why Bowie? We believe that a spirit of rebellion — revolution even — threaded the experiences of the rebels and David Bowie (albeit nearly 200 years removed). We’ll use music and interpreters in such a way that you won’t possibly forget what the Whiskey Rebellion meant to both the region and a young nation.

They also promised two cocktails and a rustic riverfront supper.

A day dedicated to kayaking, David Bowie, and the historic Whiskey Rebellion with actual whiskey available to drink? What could be wrong with this mixology?

I sent an email to a small group of people to see who wanted to join me, and two of my writer-editor friends said yes. This is how I found myself in my driveway on August 6, 2017, with Christine Stroud of Autumn House Press and Beth Kracklauer of The Wall Street Journal strapping two kayaks to my car roof and looking at my back tire saying, “Doesn’t that look a little low?” The strapping of the kayaks on the car is not a task that falls under my domain of required household skills. My husband Rick does that job and so I was a bit nervous that the two boats would fly off the car as we slanted it downward out of the South Side Slopes of Pittsburgh. Still nervous even after I texted Rick a photo of the strapped kayaks and he wrote back: “Looks good.”

The tire just heightened the tension. It looked really low. We loaded up and set out to find some air. The first GetGo pump was broken, as was the CoGo’s pump. The second GetGo I remembered, which was by accident on our route, did the trick. The tire was very low — a slow leak, I’d find out the next day — and then it was filled and we were trekking on borrowed time to the town of Monongahela, wherever that was, my GPS leading the way. We had our water bottles and our sunglasses and a vague, useless sense of where we were going as the loose strap ends that we hadn’t secured properly onto the lassoed kayaks broke free like victory flags. We traversed PA 43 South to PA 136 East. The straps…

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Sherrie Flick
Heated
Writer for

Sherrie Flick’s nonfiction appears in The Wall Street Journal, Ploughshares, Creative Nonfiction, and Pittsburgh Magazine.