My youngest son’s Scout Troop was planning a trip to the Boundary Waters and parts of Quetico. I vowed to make sure he was ready even though I had my hesitations due to his age and stature.
I took him on several float trips down one of our local rivers, teaching him the necessary strokes and when to use them. I taught him how to read the water and how to avoid obstacles. How to navigate through rapids and eddies and how to pick the most efficient line. A kid is a kid and you never really know for sure if they’re actually listening or not.
I was suffering from a torn rotator cuff and was scheduled for surgery so never had any intention of going on said trip. But I did my best to uphold my vow. And I lamented that I wouldn’t be there for my youngest sons first trip “Up North.”
The surgery came and went with a rotator cuff repair and a torn bicep tendon surgically reattached. Late one evening I received a call from a gentleman whose son was going as one of the adults and was informed that he had been in a bad car accident and wouldn’t be able to go. He asked if I wanted to take his slot. I looked at the calendar seeing that it was 3 months post op and physical therapy was going really well. I said OK, count me in. Of course I set some conditions, mainly being that I wouldn’t be able to portage a canoe.
As it turns out, these kids were too young to handle portaging canoes or to even carry the heavier packs. I had my work cut out for me and ended up carrying our canoe over every portage. My middle son was on the trip as well, acting as the Navigator because it was his second trip up there. To his credit he worked harder than anyone and always took the heaviest loads without complaint. Bless that child because he helped his old man more than he knew. My kids are 5 years apart and the middle son hung mostly with his friends. But he and his buddy always canoed close to me because I knew all of the shortcuts and best campsites. The leader was using a GPS and those only work on straight lines so you do a lot of unnecessary paddling. But it was good to share the experience with both of them.
On the way out, I had fallen behind the group a bit, just to prolong the inevitable end of the trip. And from the canoe to my left, one of the Dads who went, smiled and pointed to the bow seat of my canoe at my son. He said, “you can certainly tell who taught that young man how to handle himself in a canoe!” Also, “I’ve been watching you two paddle for the past hour and he never misses a beat and always anticipates the next curve of the river…he’ll be a pro just like his Dad soon.”
Wow! I got choked up and all I could do was smile and give him a thumbs up. I saw my son square his shoulders a bit from a swell of pride. Thank you sir for the compliment…you made my trip that much better.
And now I know that my son WAS listening! How cool is that?