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A Moo-ving Story

My daughter had unearthed a treasure trove of ancient photos while cleaning out the attic. She was enjoying (far too much) silly shots of her "old man" in his feckless youth. One was a group of bleary-eyed, twenty-somethings around a campfire, grinning and toasting the photographer with beer cans aloft. Aluminium rental canoes in the background reflected the setting sun.

She picked me out and asked why I had a bandage over one eye. After a couple decades of preaching responsible behavior to her, I wasn't about to confess the indiscretions of a reckless youth. "Just a bump on the head, hon. Just a bump on the head."

She wandered off and I smiled as the memories flooded back. We had just graduated college and still had much more education than sense. In celebration, we planned a "float trip" on the Hocking River, which flows through the Hocking Hills of central Ohio. It wasn't long after launch that the inevitable splash fights and capsizing broke out. Two canoes conspired in a tactic to draw my attention to one side and miss the covert attack from the other. It was especially effective. This affront could not stand.

I commanded my partner to put some back into her paddle so we could race ahead, lie in ambush and exact the vengence that was our due. A few hundred yards downstream, we encountered a sharp left turn behind a boulder. A perfect place to spring the trap. I was about to instruct her to maintain silence when she let out a shriek. She was pointing at a half-submerged object in the shallows near the bow. A severed cow's head. Perfect!

I slipped out of the canoe, found a handhold on the prize and waded out into the channel to listen for the unsuspecting prey. I heard paddle splashes nearing the turn and ducked under the water. Running through a rock bed, the river was clear enough for me to discern the silver hull swinging with the turn. As the bow drew next to me, I thrust the head upward and emitted a blood-chilling screech.

Imagine my surprise when the bow occupant was an elderly woman who returned my screech, dropped her paddle and started to slump over backwards. I dropped the head and grabbed for her with both hands. I had to release one hand to fend off the paddle her husband was swatting me with (hence, the bandage in the photo). As I recall, it was a wooden beavertail and quite nice. Profuse apologies were offered and icily declined. Our group, having paused for a bathroom break upstream, caught up with us at this point and observed the animated yelling and paddle brandishing. They weren't certain what had transpired, but they were obviously quite sure they enjoyed my predicament. Happy to say I went on to develop a much greater sense of paddling safety and courtesy, and that stands as the dumbest thing I ever did on the water.

Submitted by Henry E. Dorfman - Cincinnati, OH

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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