For my family, July means a long weekend at Oklahoma’s Beavers Bend State Park. Ages might range from a few weeks to three-quarters of a century. And our days are spent on Mountain Fork River or Broken Bow Lake, while evenings find us treating sunburn, life preserver rash, or shark bites. No wait…
This year’s family trip had no babies, so I had no one to put on my lap and cuddle as a legitimate reason not to participate in the treacherous water sports. Lanny said, “C’mon, let’s go kayaking.” Suddenly, my knees began to quiver as I imagined my lower body trapped in an upside-down kayak on a fast-flowing, unforgiving river.
My son Dusty mentioned that I shouldn’t try to paddle the same part of the river as he and the rest of the gang were riding. “Why?” I asked, secretly relieved for the possible reprieve.
“Because the rapids are pretty mean and they’re sometimes hard for even me to maneuver without capsizing.” Yikes!
I looked at the kids, each with unsuspecting eyes. Then I said to Dusty, “You mean you’re taking my precious grandchildren to their deaths? You’re putting those innocent children in harm’s way?”
He said, “Mama, these kids are agile, strong, and athletic. I’m just saying that you need to ride the smooth, less rapid part of the river.”
“The lazy part?” He nodded.
Lanny asked, “Would you rather ride a canoe?” Immediately, I saw a ray of familiar light, so I agreed. Then I realized I hadn’t been in a canoe since 1965 when I was in Water Safety Instructor training in Athens, Texas.
“Sure,” I said, “as long as we stay on the Lazy River.” I grabbed my sunglasses and visor and headed out the door in my white capris and my new royal blue tunic.
“Hey, Mimi!” my grandson Brock yelled. “You’re wearing THAT?” He was right. I quickly changed into my Beavers Bend swimsuit with sleeves (alternate attire when proper swimsuit was (conveniently) forgotten—-an old and faded t-shirt and capris).
Embarking the canoe was far from a smooth movement for me. If it weren’t for the young tanned hunk on duty with a steady arm, I’d still be in a fast-clip, side-to-side rock. Getting seated was no easy task for either of us. Lanny insisted that I sit in front while he sat in the rear of the canoe. He asked, “On which side do you want to use your oar?”
“The right side!” Desperately, I tried to remember the “J” stroke from my WSI class without mumbling and revealing my uncertainty. Just as we shoved from shore, I decided to prank Lanny. Reaching inside my Ziploc bag, I pulled out my cell phone cord and asked, “Where can I plug in this cord?” Lanny didn’t think it was funny.
On the “lazy” ride, I rediscovered muscles I hadn’t used since 1965. Although I thought I would keep my oar solely on the right side of the canoe, Lanny often had other ideas. He would shout, “LEFT! LEFT SIDE! CINDY, LEFT SIDE!” He was probably right, since we crashed into one canoe after another. When we had a quiet moment, Lanny said, “When we hit a canoe, simply apologize and say, ‘I’ll buy your dinner.’” Had we fulfilled our promises, we would have had to stop by the credit union before the dinners.
At the end of our ride, Lanny tried to maneuver the canoe so that I could step out onto shore and not get my sandals wet. Still unable to stand and balance myself, I got a nice dunk in the river instead.
Sadly, there was no place to plug in my hair dryer.
Cindy Baker Burnett is a resident of Bonham. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.