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Interview with Willie I. Placino

Placino, Willie I.
Moose, Brett
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers; Overcoming obstacles
Willie Placino talks about a dangerous kayaking trip and a mysterious and scary legend.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Brett Moose interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
BM (Brett Moose): Hello again, this is Brett Moose. Our final speaker today will be Willie Placino who lives here in the Charlotte area and is a recent college graduate.
WP (Willie I. Placino): Hi, um, like Brett said, my name is Willie Placino, I'm about 23 years old, and, uh, well, this is, this is my story I'm going to tell. Um, it was about last year, last fall, I took, um, a, a kayaking class with, uh, Central Piedmont. And, uh, this, this would be, like the intermediate class because I already took the basic over the summer, and I thought, you know, I could, I could take the intermediate because they said I was pretty good at it. But, um, the river that we took was, um, the Nantahala River. It's like a Class III, uh, type river and it has like a whole bunch of rapids in it that you know, pretty much could kill most people, tear a person apart you know, if he didn't know what he was doing. But, uh, anyway, the part of the river that we, um, paddled was probably about five to ten miles long. And, uh, it began at a dam, and um, that day we, uh, we set out at about eight o'clock in the morning in a part of the river that's probably, you know, um, pretty calm that we could like, um, swim around in and just get used to the water, uh, to the water of the river.
BM: Uh, what time of year was this?
WP: It was about, um, September.
WP: And well, anyway, um, the instructor split us up into two groups, like, uh, the more experienced group and the less experienced group and, um, the main, the main teacher, I forget what his name was. It was Mr. Brown. But, um, he took the less experienced, um, kayakers and his assistant took the more experienced, ah, kayakers that he thought, you know, could, um, spend more time on, on the river and not fall behind so much. So, uh, I was part of the more experienced group but still, you know, it was only like my third time, uh, kayaking on the river. So anyway, we were paddling for hours, you know, practicing strokes and doing Eskimo rolls. Eskimo rolls are where you like turn over in the water and come back up, uh, without getting out of your kayak. And we paddled, you know, back and forth, from side to side, uh, from the bank to bank you know, preparing ourselves to, to go down the river you know. So after a while, I got, I was pretty much ready to take on anything the river had to offer but, um, you know, you can't, you can't ever be prepared for everything. So, uh, about halfway down the river I get into trouble. We're like, we're like paddling along, and the, the river is kind of rocky and stuff and so everybody like slows down and I'm like tailing right behind this person and they turn and I hit their boat and I flip over. And, and I come back up you know, and I'm all disoriented, there's water in my face, I'm like trying to wipe it off, and I don't even know whether I'm facing up river or down river. But, you know, in the meantime my, my kayak is like floating down river and, uh, the next thing I knew is like I'm slammed up against this big rock and my kayak and, um, my kayak's getting sucked underneath this rock and the, the current was like holding me in there and I can't, I can't even move. So, um, [pause] so I'm holding on for dear life and like nobody can get to me you know. The people behind me tried to help me out but they would just bump into me and like, they'd float away but the current was too strong for me so you know, so I couldn't, I couldn't push away and fine, finally I just like ditch my kayak and, and uh, kick it away from me so I, so I maybe could get free and climb onto the rock, but I'm still pinned underneath it. The water is pulling me under and I'm hoping like somebody will get my kayak, but that's like the last thing on my mind. So anyway, um, I was like, like really tired because we had been paddling all day and, uh, its like really cold so I had like no strength left. And let's see-.
BM: Now was this somebody, was this another person's fault that this, that you got into this situation?
WP: No. It was nobody's fault.
BM: Because they hit you?
WP: It was nobody's fault. It was just a bad piece of river that you know, I couldn't get out of.
WP: And, well you know, I hoped somebody could get to me but eventually all I could do was you know, they had like, um, little emergency whistles, uh, on your life vest. I was like blowing that thing. I, I could see my instructor from, from behind the rock but he, he, he couldn't get to me. And uh, anyway, he was like sick that day so he wasn't much help. But, um, finally I, I pushed myself like inched my way across the rock onto the bank and I, I was fine after that. But I was pretty pissed off that nobody could get to me.
BM: Uh, well, what did you do? Did you tell everybody you were mad at them for not helping?
WP: Well, I knew they, they couldn't get to me, but still I was like stuck on that rock for at least 10 minutes, kicking and screaming, you know.
BM: Um-hmm.
WP: My feet were being pulled under the rock you know and [pause] I was just shaken up and out of breath and everybody was like waiting on me and stuff but, um, I, I didn't want to go kayaking like, I, I didn't feel like kayaking anymore that day. But, uh, eventually I got back into the water and you know, my, my instructor came up to me and apologized for you know, not doing anything but, um, I, I didn't want to talk to him at that time but then, to make matters even worse, he told me that some guy died under that rock. That same rock that I was under, like 10 years before that, 10 years ago and, uh, he was named, I mean, the rock was named after him. After hearing that I definitely didn't feel like kayaking anymore, anymore that day. But, um-.
BM: Did you believe that?
WP: Um, I guess I believed him, but it scared me a little. I don't know why, why he would like tell me that, you know.
BM: Of course.
WP: Um, later on that night like around the campfire you know, after having some marshmallows and stuff, my instructor, you know, told me the rest of the story. The story goes that the man that drowned under that rock, you know, the, the water level was a lot higher that time and he was stuck under that rock for a couple of hours before you know, the rescue teams could you know, fish him out and, uh, when they did fish him out, like his head and one of his arms was missing and, uh, they said that, um, that today the ghost of his headless body haunts the river every night like looking for his severed head. So, you know, as if I didn't have enough trouble sleeping because of the accident, because of that, you know, my little kayaking experience, like they had to go and tell me that spooky legend but, uh, I think they were just messing with me. But, um, it scared me pretty well. But, uh-. [Pause]
BM: All right. If that's all, we appreciate it and that was Willie, everybody. And uh, this concludes the three interviews. Thank you.