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On Saturday my …

July 31, 2012

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On Saturday my 2 1/2 year old Grandaughter went kayaking on the Potomac River just six miles from her home in Arlington, Virginia.

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Not only did she kayak…..she floated along beside the boat in the river! I giggled when I saw the pictures of her and her parents and the pure joy on her little face.

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She was proud of her life jacket and hat and all that went with such a big adventure.

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And then I thought about how very different life is today for kids compared to when I was growing up. I doubt that I had ever heard of a kayak until sometime in high school, unless it was in social studies class when we learned about Eskimos and their way of life, but that didn’t really count! Certainly none of my friends or classmates had kayaks. Such a strange word and such a funny looking boat.

When I grew up there were fishing boats. Coming from Wisconsin and its many, many lakes, fishing was almost a way of life for a lot of dads, some moms, and of course the kids who learned how to dig worms and bait a hook! There was ice fishing in the winter too. That didn’t involve boats though….just lots of standing around a hole in the ice, stomping your feet to get warm,  your hands in your pockets, hood pulled low over your face, with your fishing line sunk down deep inside the lake somewhere! Or if you were really lucky your Grandpa or some family friend might actually have had a fishing shack out on the ice…..complete with a few old chairs and blankets, a propane heater, an ice chest for the fish and one for the beer! Oh yeah, beer is big in Wisconsin, but I never developed a taste for it. Just the smell made me wonder how anybody could enjoy drinking that stuff!

One of the more memorable days of my life involved ice fishing. I was 18 and was visiting my boyfriend and his family up in the northern part of Wisconsin. It must have been over the Christmas holidays as the ice was thick on beautiful Lake Menomin and you could see your breath with every step and hear your footsteps crackle as you ambled along. My boyfriend and his dad and brother had gone out early to fish and persuaded me to come too. I had not been ice fishing before and there was no warm shack for me to run to now and then to warm up. My one day to be father-in-law felt sorry for me and gave me his car keys to go back to the house for awhile. I was to come back and pick up the fishermen a bit later. Why he thought I knew how to drive a car on an iced over lake is beyond me, but I didn’t argue. Being 18 and in love and just a silly girl, I was cavorting around on the ice with those keys in my big fat wooly mittens, when all of a sudden they slipped out……right down the hole in the ice! I was horrified and hardly dared look up at my one day to be father- in- law. I liked him well enough, and came to love him over time, but he was a crusty ole fellow and did not put up with nonsense lightly. I would not then, now, or ever want to be on his black list…..god rest his soul! I honestly don’t remember what exactly was said, but that frosty air became a bit frostier and I said not a word as I hid behind my boyfriend while we all trudged a loooooong way to the shore for help and a ride home, etc. No cell phones in 1969!

There were ski boats when I was a kid……beautiful, long, and sleek…..all wooden boats polished to shine like glass with brass or chrome fittings that blinded you when they caught the sun. There is nothing like the low gurlgy roar of those old engines, purring and raring to go as they pulled slowly out of the marinas, picking up speed in a hurry…..flying over the water. Chris-Craft boats! Classics now with monstrous price tags, collectors clubs, and blue ribbons for the most beautiful boat! You’ve seen the movie “On Golden Pond”? Then you know the kind of boat I am talking about. We lived just 8 miles from Green Lake…home to the original Christ-Craft boat manufacturing company so I saw many of those beautiful boats and I have skiied behind them. Talk about romance! That is all any teen ager needed to fire the fuel of imagination that could conquer the world. Actually that kind of boat is all anybody needs to fire imagination and conquer the world! Old codgers, young guys, wise grandmas and pretty girls…..they all love Chris-Craft boats!

Of course we did have canoes…..especially at summer camp. Big ole metal tubs, banged up and battered from the use of a thousand kids coming back summer after summer to the north woods to swim, and ski, and canoe and sing around a campfire with tall tales and roasted marshmallows while fire flies flitted along the sandy beach. When I was in college I was introduced to a different kind of canoe….a white water canoe…..slender, tippy, shiny fiberglass, no keel…..made for fast water and shooting rapids. It took your breath away as did the scenery along the banks of the many fast rivers of the south that my friends and I canoed those college years.

And then there were pontoon boats! Why you can get an entire family reunion, dogs and all, on one of those things! Bring along the barbecue, a cooler full of goodies, some sun screen and towels, an old radio, a couple of fishing poles, a can of worms, and you are set. Set for an entire day of fun in the sun, carefree cruising on any ole lake you like. There is no other experience like it….especially at sunset when the kids and dogs are winding down, the burgers and dogs are popping on the bbq, and the storytellers begin their tales. It’s one of the finer memory making experiences that I know of.

But if I have to choose, my very favorite boat is a houseboat. I have been on one at least a half a dozen times so far…..with family and friends in the northern wilds of California on Lake Oroville for week long vacations. The lake is so big that once you leave the marina and head out you can go for several days without seeing another person. We would glide along at a leisurely pace, music playing, we girls fixing sandwiches and drinks, the kids chomping at the bit to stop so they could swim or fish or get pulled behind the boat on rubber rafts, and such. Oh I have entire photo albums full of Lake Oroville and our family adventures. Those albums are part of my history and although they are fun to look at and evoke a lot of laughs and fairytales, it’s when I close my eyes that I truly remember. I can hear those voices so full of fun and mischief, see Grandpa helping somebody bait a hook or letting somebody little sit on his lap to steer that huge boat! Starry skies up on the top deck at night, flat on our backs watching the stars and satellites float by. A bear track in the sand next to the boat early one morning! A goose ON the boat one morning!

Yes, boats have played a big part of my life now that I think about it. No wonder my grandaughter loves kayaking! It’s in her DNA! Here’s hoping you have had some fun boat rides in your life too.

Chatty Grandma

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3 Comments
  1. Elfling permalink

    I used to have my own canoe and would go canoeing down the St Joe River near Berrien Springs, Mich. That was lots of fun. Enjoyed water skiing and canoe trips at Camp Wahdoon.

    • those were the days…… 🙂

  2. Jeannie Lindberg permalink

    Loving your blogs, all of them. I don’t get to comment on the ones I read on my smart phone, but you were missed when you didn’t write for a day. Such adventures and wonderful memories, brings back memories for me too. 🙂

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