After a rain-soaked day that closed down roads and left large parts of IU underwater for hours, a small crowd gathered at the Jordan River.
The river, which had looked more like a lake earlier in the day, was still gushing over its banks even as the flooding receded.
And two sophomores were clambering into the current on an inflatable rubber duck.
Brandon Wehmiller and Noah Nash had bought the sunglasses-clad yellow duck, whom they named Howard, for about $40 earlier in the day.
They took turns blowing it up at the edge of the river, switching off when one of them got tired or lightheaded.
Then the two stripped down to T-shirts and swim trunks. Wehmiller took off his already muddy shoes, but Nash left a pair of New Balances on his feet.
Nash sat on the duck and grabbed hold of a bridge near the Student Building to steady himself while Wehmiller tried to climb on.
“I’m gonna have to push us in,” Wehmiller said.
“No,” Nash told him. “Trust me.”
Wehmiller finally made his way onto Howard’s back. Nash let go of the bridge.
The duck teetered back and forth, and the sophomores spun in circles as they slowly gained speed.
Suddenly, they realized the extent of obstacles ahead of them: drooping tree branches, fast-flowing waters and a bridge with a low tunnel near Franklin Hall.
But their careening continued.
“Oh no!” they yelled.
Howard the duck spun toward the bridge, its head catching on the tunnel before bending and letting its riders pass underneath.
Then the duck caught land. As Nash got off and climbed back onto the grass with the duck, Wehmiller fell into the cold river, leaving him completely soaked.
In the crowd, Bloomington resident Robert Nix watched with Elliott, his 12-year-old son.
“I can’t wait to go to college now,” Elliott told his dad.
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