Friday, August 11, 2006

The History of Tubing

In just a couple of short hours, we will be on our way to New Braunfels for a fun-filled weekend of tubes, sun, and beer.

In honor of this event I have compiled for you a brief summary of the history of tubing.

Tubing originated in the Greek Isles. During the celebration Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, the Greek women would swim across a stream fed by the melting snow of Mount Olympus and display their boobies to the men on the other side. The men in turn would take bloated sheep stomachs, and float across the river with wine to seduce the fair maidens.

With the advancements of the Romans, and the adoption of so many customs from other cultures, tubing was continued under the Latin name "bovis venter no." This literally translated to "Cow Stomach Float" as the Romans used the larger, four-chambered stomachs of cows to get a better ride as they floated down the aquaducts that they built to bring water into town.

After Constantine adopted Christianity and the Catholic Church grew in power, tubing was banned as a pagan activity. As you may have read before, many poor souls were burned as witches if they floated the river. Floating in water was strictly forbidden.

It wasn't until the industrial revolution that tubing once again briefly came into fashion as many grist mills and textile factories were powered by water wheels along rivers perfect for floating. However, the pollution of these streams soon put an end to the passing fad as most people who dared to brave the soiled waters ended up going blind or dying of the black lung.

It seemed as if this enjoyable passtime had suddenly become just a footnote in the annals of history -- that is however until the surrender of General Santa Anna to Colonel Steve Austin as Texas won its Independence from Mexico. In the charter detailing the terms of surrender, Santa Anna, a closeted, but avid tuber, added a rider stating that all Mexicans would still have the freedom to tube the Rio Grande for all time. Santa Anna truly believed this would be his lasting legacy to the Mexican people and revenge on the new Texas government. Little did he realize that farmers would soon build so many dams upstream of the Mexican border that the might Rio would soon be reduced to just puddles of standing water for most of the year.

Tubing didn't return as a regular Texas pastime until the year 1861. The Wagon Wheel Festival was held that year, and residents of the New Braunfels area turned out in force for the celebration. They floated the river by lashing several wooden wagon wheels together. On these platforms they then barbecued and drank in a contest of skill. You see, the large diameter, but slender wagon wheels did not balance well, and the last one atop their wheel and still drinking was declared the winner. Sadly, most people of this time period did not know how to swim, so there were more than a few drownings, but alas, it was all in the name of fun.

Unfortunately, it was also 1861 when the Civil War began. This North/South turmoil was on the minds of everyone and tubing was forgotten. However, in 1886, the first car was invented. And with the car, came the first predecessors of tubes as we know them. Once again, tubing was an American pastime.

1935 was another stellar year for the sport of tubing as beer cans were invented. THe use of cans, rather than bottles or frosty mugs on the river proved much safer during drunken brawls. The crushing of cans on the forehead of young males also became a mating ritual which was used to attract nubile, drunken, and easily impressed females.

After World War II, American factories were in full swing cranking out tubes. While these tubes had all been sent to the war effort overseas, they could now be diverted to homeland recreational markets.
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