Posted 07-31-2004 at 13:41:41
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For three years I have been threatening to take the girls on a trip down the Peace River in a canoe.
Today we finally did it.
Never mind the fact that I have never been in a canoe in my life, much less, was in charge of maneuvering one. Nor was I today; in charge that is. Jenny took the front and Jill took the back and they both refused to budge, (they are much smarter than I give them credit for) forcing me to sit in the middle with no responsibilities other than to ride along like Cleopatra and whine and complain and gasp in terror every time someone moved two inches in either direction, and rocked the boat.
The funny thing about a canoe, is that it seems to take quite a bit of effort to keep one going in the right direction, especially in a moderate to stiff current, but seems to take very little effort to end up ensnared in tree limbs or going backwards down the river looking at where you just came from instead of where you’re going. I say it seems that way because Jill was doing most of the work and based on how many times she cracked me in the back of the head with the paddle, she must have been really focused on what she was doing. She even said so.
“Sorry, mom! I was watching where we’re going.”
She said this at least twelve or thirteen times during the course of the trip. When she wasn’t beating me to death with the paddle or trying to drown me with ‘paddle splash’, she was scaring me to death by rocking the boat.
No matter how many times I have been reassured, I am scared down to my bones of alligators. I don’t see how anybody can be so sure that a gator won’t get you if you’re unfortunate enough to end up in the middle of the river. I mean, you hear about people getting eaten by them on occasion, so as far as I’m concerned, any puddle of water in Florida that is deeper than two feet, is or could be dangerous.
“I just want you girls to know,” I said before we even got going good, “that if we tump this thing over, it’s every woman for herself. I don’t even plan to get wet. If I feel this canoe tipping, you’re going to wish you’d brought a camera because you’re gonna see your mama walk on water.”
“Mom, if it was that dangerous, they wouldn’t bring kids down here on field trips. How do you think I learned to paddle a canoe? Field trips.” Jill said, and promptly whacked me in the back of the head again.
“Sorry, mom. I’m...”
“...watching where you’re going...I know.”
Like idiots, we brought a backpack filled with snacks and drinks, which sat in the bottom of the boat untouched. We were scared to try and move to get anything out of it. In fact, my left calf went to itching mere seconds after we pushed off and it continued to itch for the following two hours. Every time I even thought about reaching down to scratch it, I got whacked with the paddle again.
Jenny sat frozen in the front end of the canoe, and giggled. I’m sure the occasional thunking sound was the highlight of her trip.
Just about the time I started to get comfortable with Jill’s sailoring abilities, we came around a bend and the sound of the river became a roar. Well it seemed like a roar to me.
“Oh my sweeeeet Jeeee-zuuuus! WHITE WATER!!!” I yelled. “Jenny…sit up and pay attention! You might be the only thing standing between us and a watery grave!”
“Mom...don’t you have to have hills and valleys and boulders and stuff to have white water? It’s not white water, it’s more like beige, or eggshell, or you know...off-white water.” Jill corrected me.
“Whatever color it is, please just get us through it.”
She did, in fine style too.
For the next mile or so, the current all but disappeared. The only sounds were that of the birds and squirrels, and the whisper of the paddle in the water. It was so quiet in fact that it got downright creepy and my imagination started working on me. Cypress trees and stumps lined the river’s edge, and vines hung out over the water. Half-submerged dead trees created a winding path that really put Jill to the test. I know this by the number of times I got whacked. Water spiders danced alongside the boat and there was a mysterious crackling sound deep in the brush along the bank that gave me the impression that we were being stalked by something on land.
“Does anybody else hear banjo music?” I asked abruptly.
“Whad’ya mean?” Jenny replied.
“Never mind. Just paddle. A little faster if ya don’t mind.”
For the first time since we launched our craft, we saw a human figure on the side of the river several yards in front of us. It appeared to be an unnaturally small person sitting on the bank fishing.
“Hey! There’s somebody up there!” I whispered, and the banjo music in my head got louder.
“I wonder who it is!” Jenny whispered back. We were all clearly delighted at the prospect of seeing another person enjoying this secluded area of the river. We were within twenty feet of the ‘person’ when we realized that it was one of those little boy statues that had been cast in a fishing pose.
“That oughta be against the law.” Jill muttered. “That really freaks me out.”
Less than twenty minutes later, we did see a real person, two in fact. Sitting by the river in lawn chairs at the KOA campground. We waved and grinned and they waved and grinned. We knew that we were within a half hour of reaching our rendezvous point with the lady who had rented us our canoe.
We made it to the boat ramp and managed to get out of the canoe with none of us any worse for the wear. Not only did we not flip the boat, but we only had a few seriously scary brushes with dead trees and other obstacles, despite the fact that there was one spot that had so much junk in the water that we had a mere three feet or so to skinny through. Naturally we didn’t make it on the first try, but I didn’t have to walk on water either, so it wasn’t a half-bad event.
All things considered, it was a pleasant, albeit tense experience, and I’m hoping that next time we will be able to relax a bit more and enjoy the scenery. We did see a turtle, a branch shaped like a turtle, and a four-foot alligator, that watched us slide past with little more than casual interest. His mere presence though, confirmed what I suspected all along. They’re there, and they know when we’re there. Mmm...hmm.