Another holiday and I brace myself to hear reports of more car and boating accidents here in the Show Me State.
To no one’s surprise, the reason for the tragedies will usually involve alcohol.
My family and I choose to stay close to home this year, even though we have two previously owned canoes in perfect operating condition waiting for us in the back yard.
Why don’t we want to take these craft out for the day?
Answer: After the last outing on a holiday, which happened to be Memorial Day weekend, I have decided never to float a body of water in the Ozarks on a holiday—period.
Here’s the story. We took our canoes to an access on the Meramec River and my husband and son dropped off a vehicle at the takeout point a few miles downstream.
We were ready to roll and about to launch our canoes when a family pulled up with one of those huge rafts and plunked it down right next to our canoes. Never mind the “first there—first out” rule that most courteous folks follow. Two women got into the raft and bid adieu to their men. Then they pushed off at the same time we did. We paddled forward, trying to put some space between their raft and our canoes.
Unfortunately, the babes in the raft caught up with us while we had taken a break to fish. The younger of the two women wanted to know why we hadn’t caught any fish yet. How do you answer that question? “Uh, wrong bait?”
Shortly after the women floated by, another group of folks in rafts came by and said, “Look, those kids over there on the bank have fish.”
After they passed by, we continued to fish and float, and were once again interrupted by another group of rowdy rafters who asked if we’d caught our limit yet. I wanted to say, “No, but I’ve caught my limit of city-slickers on the river asking me if I’ve caught my limit!”
Occasionally an outboard-equipped john boat would speed by. If you want a cheap thrill in a canoe, try hanging on while the waves from the boat rock you up and down while you’re trying to salvage your fishing line and pick up an oar.
It gets better. We started seeing drunken folks partying at a campground. You know the type—half-nekked with tattoos and huge beer-baby bellies. And of course, they too wanted to know how the fishing was going.
As we approached the old Highway 19 Bridge, I looked up to see someone throw a can out of a pickup window into the river. It sailed by us, and I hope it had beer in it. At least the liquid flying out of it looked yellow.
It just gets classier, now. When we floated past the bridge, we noticed another party in full swing. You know the type here, too—with the pickup doors open and the country western music blaring, and a little grill going, and mommies and daddies drinking while the kids run wild.
One kid, who reminded me of the fat boy, Pugsley, in the original “Addams Family” television show, stood beside the river cussing. I looked around, trying to figure out why he’d be cussing, but he was just practicing, I guess.
We were almost to the take-out point called Bird’s Nest Park, when yet another john boat with two guys came speeding by. When they arrived at the take-out destination, the water patrol was there to meet them. They were cited for drunkenness, for not having PFDs on board and for excessive speed. Then, the water patrol left. They left these two drunks to load the boat and drive home.
I wondered—does the water patrol only have jurisdiction in the water, or what? Why would the officers allow a drunk to drive?
After we parked the canoes, my son and I walked up to the car. Along the way, we couldn’t help but notice that one of the drunken john boat guys was relieving himself on the tire of his truck.
Maybe he thought he had found a new way to increase the tire traction, or something; maybe he was practicing to be a dog?
A perfect ending to an imperfect day.