Sunday, July 17, 2005

Those Eskimos

As we paddled down the river we took our time, watching the limestone bluffs that loomed over us, watching the blue sky overhead, listening to the water gurgling over the rocks, listening to distant thunder that seemed to be following us, watching the black clouds on one side of the river and then the other (but never over us), watching the tree roots at the river's edge where the forest came down for a drink.

Most of the time, Ben was ahead of us paddling his kayak as we paddled our canoe. There came a point, however, when he reached his limit.

The water was moving slowly, and we had not even reached the landmark rocks that the outfitters told us marked the half-way point of our 5-6 hour journey. He was clearly exhausted, laboring greatly with each stroke.

Actually, laboring doesn't do the scene justice. He was delirious, talking goofy like a three year-old who's up way past his bedtime. After each stroke, he groaned and then laid back and rested so as to gather his strength for the next.

There was no sign of fast water ahead, so Trudy offered to take the kayak for a while, an offer that he immediately accepted. He clambered into the canoe as Trudy took the kayak and began practicing her stroke. A few moments later, we were floating downstream again.

Oh, he exclaimed quietly from the front of the canoe.

What? I asked.

Oh, those Eskimos.


Those Eskimos. They were real men.

He waited for a few seconds and then turned to me without waiting for my response.

... and you can put that in a jumpingfish!

Buffalo National River, NW Arkansas

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Imagine, if you will, the clear river cutting thru gravel shoals and flowing past high limestone bluffs with sycamores and oaks and maples coming down to the water's edge and a blue sky overhead.

And imagine a 14 year-old boy free to paddle his kayak fast ahead, scouting the best routes thru the rapids.

Or imagine him floating slowly wherever the current might take him, lying back and gazing at the limestone bluffs, at the forest on either shore, and at the summer sky.

Imagine him going from one side of the river to the other, sometimes looking back to see if he was getting too far ahead.

And imagine him singing as he goes.

Earlier in the day, we wondered if we were making the right decision to rent a two-person canoe for us and a one-person kayak for him.

I imagine we did.

Buffalo National River, NW Arkansas

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