One warm, lazy, sunny summer day my buddy Ed and I were sitting around enjoying our freedom. We could hear the sound of birds singing, crickets chirping and the occasional cicada, singing his loud song. Feeling bored, we decided to try our hand at canoeing. I mean, how difficult could that be? We had seen people on TV and in the movies canoeing and it looked relatively easy.
We heard about a place on Ellicott Creek that rented canoes so we jumped in my car and I drove there. The place wasn’t very easy to find as it only had a small, weathered, hand lettered “canoes for rent” sign that we failed to see the first time we drove by. We turned around and went back the other way and we finally spotted it. When we rolled up, there was no one there, just a pile of canoes and a small shed. There was a door bell button at the front door of the shed that said “press for service”.
Ed pressed the button and shortly thereafter a man ambled his way over from a nearby house to see what we wanted. “You want to rent a canoe?” he asked. Well, no, we were there to sell encyclopedias. What did he think we were there for?
The small shed was padlocked and the “proprietor” produced a key from his pocket and opened the lock. He went inside and came out with a key for one of the canoes. I assume the canoes were chained and locked up to guard against theft and I wondered to myself why he just didn’t carry the keys for the canoe locks with him but who was I to question? That’s when I realized the shed had a second purpose. He also kept the paddles and life jackets in there.
After he fixed us up with a canoe, paddles and life jackets he eased us into the water and we were off. It didn’t take us long to get the hang of it first rowing on one side then the other with me in the bow and Ed in the stern. We were able to row up stream against the current of the creek and then drift along with the lazy meandering flow of it. It was great fun.
We had been canoeing for a while, admiring the scenery when we saw a small duck merrily paddling along, sometimes going upside down looking for food. I thought it would be fun to capture this duck so we decided to chase it. The problem we had was every time we got close, the duck would disappear beneath the water only to pop up a short distance away.
Well I wasn’t about to let some stupid little duck outwit me. We got real close and it dove under the water. I saw it swim under us so I stuck my paddle in the water to stop the canoe and go after it. Big mistake! Because of our forward movement, the canoe flipped over dumping us and our possessions in the water. Fortunately we had put whatever wasn’t in our pockets in a cooler that floated. We grabbed the canoe and swam to the shore. We then ran down the banks of the creek to retrieve our cooler and the life jackets. In hindsight, we should have attached these items to the canoe.
Our wallets were soaked so we took everything, money, driver’s license, registration and pictures out of them and laid these items on the canoe to dry in the sun. We then took off our shirts and also put them on the canoe to dry. We lay down on the shore and dried out. Once we were all dried out we loaded up again and continued our adventure. We paddled down to a large storm sewer and pulled the boat in to go exploring. At the end of the day we paddled back to the rental place, got in my car and went home.
The next morning, I woke with one of my eyes almost swollen shut and I was covered with small, yellow blisters. They were everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I think we had lain down in a bed of poison ivy to dry off.
I spent the next several days sitting in a tub full of oatmeal to help relieve the itching. It was very hard not to scratch the blistered areas but I couldn’t have done this without spreading the rash. These were the days before the internet or electronic devices so I was totally bored. This was a fun way to spend my summer vacation. (Sarcasm)
Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of my relationship with poison ivy. It seems that poison ivy stays in the body for years because for the next 5 years, in the summer, when I got hot and sweaty, I would have an outbreak. Just so you don’t think I was being exposed every year, the last time I had an outbreak, I was on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
I haven’t gone canoeing since that day and the only duck I have had was on a plate.
Norb is a writer from Lockport. He would love to hear your comments at email@example.com.