It was in early May in northern Michigan. We were canoeing the Pere Markett or the Pine or the Ausable or the Manistee or the Boardman or the Muskegon I don’t remember which. Spring was trying valiantly to turn warm but it was moving slow as an old man getting out of bed in the morning.
We slept on the ground which leached cold from the earth that lay frozen all Michigan winter into our bodies and souls all night through our cheap make-shift camping gear but the me of First Baptist of Fremont were determined to make a memory for their boys so we’re stood around and tried to get warm by sipping from ubiquitous white styrofoam cups of bad coffee while we waited for the sizzling, fragrant bacon and scrambled eggs to be done.
After breakfast we broke camp, stowed our gear and made our way to the put-in. The mist hung over the water warning us that the air was colder than the water and the water was not warm. Intuitively we knew it would be a good idea to keep upright in this trip and keep our
This was not my first Father-Son canoe float in the rivers of northern Michigan. I know how these things work. You just don’t want to flip your canoe and spend the rest of the morning shivering your wet way down the river. (Insert Keillor quote)
It reminds me a bit of what Garrison Keillor wrote about camping and camping:
“What truly cheers me up through these dog days of summer is the thought that two old friends of mine are up north on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and that I am not there with them. I am here, reading the paper, and if I wanted to go to a movie, I could go, and if I wished to use a flush toilet, I could do that, too. But for the grace of God, I could be sitting on the ground, filthy, embittered, a homeless person, eating freeze-dried food and listening to the Master Woodsman tell you what a great experience you’re having and meanwhile the woods are not lovely, just dark and deep, and a cloud of mosquitoes has come out to avenge the white man’s colonizing of North America. I have been on canoe trips, I know what goes on.” — Garrison Keillor
Anyway I wanted the boys to have a memorable experience so we went north to canoe.
I was as careful as I could be all morning to keep upright, dry, and warm. I sat in back to carefully guide the canoe ? out of any danger and I maintained a so we appearance so the other floaters would know I was really not I the mood to play around and get into a water fight or a dunking contest.
This tactic worked flawlessly. After a couple hours in the water we all decided to rest and stretch our legs and have some lunch.
I aimed our canoe at a pleasant spot under some trees to take out. We glided silently into shore. Reggie jumped out and pulled the canoe to shore but he made a critical error. I had no time to correct it. He jumped out and lifted the front of the canoe waist-high. (Maybe I exaggerated that just a little, but he did lift it up too high). This made the canoe unstable and I was still out in the water about three feet deep. I couldn’t get my feet out fast enough. They were caught under the seat. Immediately the canoe flipped and plunged me headfirst into icy water.
I would have been quick to forgive him if he had showed any remorse. Instead he threw back his head and begin belly laugh loudly, drawing attention to me floundering about in the icy water head down. He didn’t even think of apologizing. When I finally found my feet there wasn’t an inch of me it wasn’t saturated with icy water. When he finally caught his breath from his laughing fit he said; “Wow, Ken that was clumsy.”
I love Reggie but he still owes me an apology. He is a dear friend and I’d like to see him again maybe we can have a cup of coffee or share a meal at a restaurant. Maybe I could visit him at his comfortable home over toward Lake Michigan or chat with him and his shop but I would not go canoeing with him not even if you paid me.