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Canoeing: A to Z
We were practicing methods of paddling Ruth Elvedt discusses in her
book, Canoeing: A to Z. We did the side stroke, which pulls the canoe
sideways. We did the back stroke, which makes the canoe reverse course.
We also did the classic forward stroke to go forward. We became quite
proficient in the art of spinning the canoe around in circles from
combining the methods Ms. Elvedt discusses in her book. The numerous
people who were floating close by laughed at us and called us idiots
because of our unique practice of paddling.
We interviewed Rich's uncle, Earl Keys, who claims to have floated
The Current over a hundred times, prior to our departure for the river. He
had warned us when we questioned him about his numerous float trips down
Current River to be extremely careful when we came to a fast moving bend in
the river called Wallace's Point. He said, "Wallace's Point is lined with
so many root wads (root wads are clumps of tree stumps, roots, branches,
leaves, and whatever else might float down the river) along the banks, and
it has so many sunken canoes and sunken logs along it's main channel that
safe passage through it is impossible - unless you stick to the right side
of the bend."
As we neared the end of a long straight away in the river, I
noticed the speed of the water was increasing exponentially. A look
farther down the river told me what I had been dreading this whole trip now
lay before us, and we were going into Wallace's Point from the wrong side
of the river! "Rich! Back-right stroke! Back-right stroke! Hurry!
Don't you see that we're going in the wrong way? BACK-RIGHT STROKE!" I
bellowed as a rush of excitement and worry hit me.
"Hey, take it easy man. We can do this. We'll just paddle like
crazy to the other side. Got it?" was Rich's unusually calm reply to my
maniacal outburst. So we both put our backs into it and made it to the
other side of the river; however, before we knew it we were moving faster
than most people can run, and steering the canoe was becoming very
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difficult. We transversed the maze of root wads without incident, but a
couple of other canoeists who were near us when we were on the wrong side
were not so lucky. They had went into Wallace's Point still on the wrong
side of the river and struck a major cluster of root wads which capsized
their canoe and lodged it beneath one of the wads. They ended up having to
swim to shore and wait for a water patrolman to cruise by and give them a
The rest of the float proved to be very relaxing. We spent the
remaining five hours of the float relaxing and enjoying the many wonders
Mother Nature had provided the river with. We looked at the smooth
rainbow-like palette of rocks that lay beneath the sparkling transparent
waters of the river. We watched the fish catapult themselves out of the
river in a spray of tear-like gleaming water to invite low flying insects
home for lunch. We studied the movements of a couple of squirrels that
leapt from tree - to - tree as if they were trying to catch one another.
We both knew that we had accomplished something that day that would provide
us with a little bit of pride in ourselves anytime we needed some cheering
Rich and I went on several more canoe trips that summer, and our
love of canoeing only increased every time we set off on one of our "
floating adventures." Earl Keys told us something really interesting
towards the end of our interview with him, "I only have one friend I can
truly trust. I can always count on this friend to be there for me and give
me help when I need help the most. This great friend is my canoe."
1. Angier, Bradford, and Zack Taylor. Introduction to Canoeing.
Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1973.
2. Elvedt, Ruth. Canoeing: A to Z. Minneapolis: Burgess
Publishing Company, 1964.
3. Keys, Earl. Personal interview. Summer 1996.
4. McNair, Robert E. Basic River Canoeing. Martinsville: American
Camping Association, 1968.