Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Be Careful!"

Hot and sweaty in the car, but still dry!

Our canoe trip started out innocently enough. Mom, Dad, George and I deposited our borrowed canoes at the starting point on the Current River near Salem, Missouri. We had a picnic snack with loads of frozen water and tea, towels, plenty of sunscreen and a camera. All set.

Fun with M and D

We arranged everything in the canoes, loading in front of the dam, and pushed off for a *fingers crossed* two-hour trip. As we passed the last band of swimmers in the cove, a 6-year-old boy waved and said to each of us in turn, "Be careful!" Four times. He was very serious. We laughed, waving, and settled into towel-padded seats, getting used to the oars and the water lapping. There was a good current that day, the water being unseasonably high, and we headed toward the first little section of rapids.

Dad, looking all German Baptist, ruined any remaining cool factor we had.

You should know that our family has this history of minor accidents, bruising accounts of weird and/or stupid incidents that could easily have been avoided, usually with simple communication. See, my parents do this thing. If things go wrong while my dad is driving, my mom just repeats "Dale," her voice amplifying in equal proportion to the looming proximity of whatever bad thing. (Substitute a different name and you know what it sounded like when we girls were student drivers.) My dad's response to this heightening panic is stoic: silence. Ahhh, family vacation flashbacks! But back to our canoe trip. . . .

George, right before we pushed off, with his now-drowned hat.

Just before the bend, a rock loomed closer, closer, closer, and my mom kept saying "Dale" until they hit it and she went under the water. I should say I assume she stopped saying it then, but for all I know she was still drown-yelling down there. Once they tipped, their canoe filled with water and billowed sideways across the elbow of riverbend, and George and I broadsided them. With that current and no room to turn, here was no stopping it. We fell into the water as gracefully as we could, being annoyed about it and scrabbling for the towels, sunglasses, and picnic basket. The current made it difficult to drag the canoes to shore, but we fought through it. We still had our clothes on over our swimsuits. Not for long. Bruised from scraping across two rocks in the rapids, we ditched the clothes and swam back several times for items that floated. George's hat never resurfaced, sadly, but I caught Dad's chapstick downstream. We spent ten minutes fighting the whorled water in search of the digital camera when George spotted it upstream, nowhere near our tipping point, and Mom beamed, saying she'd just prayed about it.

Isn't it beautiful? Post-traumatic camera water log is fab.

As we dragged sodden things back into our canoes, we could still see the little boy who cursed us with his "carefuls." The next twenty minutes of canoeing was tense, marred with anxiety and lots of screeching Dales, though we weathered far worse patches. Four hours later, including panic time, we arrived at Akers Ferry without further incident. It would be three more days before the begrudging digital camera decided to set these pictures free. The scrapes, cuts and deep-tissue bruises on our legs, however, will last for another few weeks. I took a picture of them, but it just looks like we're underwater.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Ok that sound hauntingly similar to a trip Audrey and I took down the Sandy river here in OR a few years back. We though did not have canoes but a inflatable boat (really bad idea). Probem with the Sandy river is that it is runoff from Mt. Hood so the water was a bone chilling 45-50 degrees in early summer. Lesion learned after our raft deflated 3/4 the way down stream.