SOMETIMES RISK is so exciting you could just eat it. Then you do. You eat it for breakfast.
That’s how I felt looking down at a $3,000 canoe stranded in the rapids of the Smilkameen River near a swimming hole called Bromley Rock.
The canoe, a Clipper, was swamped full in the raging current, jammed on a large boulder and buckled backwards, its open top filled with the strength of the river. It was jammed there.
“What would I do with a buckled, folded in half canoe,” I thought. “Maybe I could make a sculpture out of it. One side was seriously caved in. It was wrecked. I stared for a long time. No paddlers were close by. Nobody appeared to own it. That canoe was abandoned.
“Could I rescue that canoe?” I thought. “Could I get it out of there? Would it be mine if I did?
But how was I going to swim in those rapids? I know how to swim. But I am not Neptune. Still, clustering together my courage I recalled how my mentors had coached me how to stay afloat in rapids.
“Keep your feet in front of you and up. Let your body float and tread water with your hands. Let the current take you. Don’t fight the current. Although, if you batt the surf with lusty sinews you will lose that campaign, then drown with no glory to tell your mother.”
“The current is more powerful than your mother. She is a Goddess, the River Goddess.”
“Don’t panic,” my mentors had told me. “Don’t try to swim to shore until the River Goddess invites you. When She is done with you She will give you a calm pool where you can seek rest and refuge.”
I still was not out to the prize yet and wouldn’t be trying to swim to shore. That would happen down stream and with the canoe, at the sandy beach where my friends were.
I knew when I got out to it I would have in my hands, my control, a Clipper canoe.
I would also be under the full force of the River Goddess, allowing Her to have Her way with me.
A slow “Okay.” drifted through my mind. Was that permission?
I waded a little into the current. Still, my cautious self calculated risk.
“How was I going to succumb to her savage whims yet gift this Clipper to myself. Would she be giving the canoe to me, or would I be stealing it from her? Which was it?”
To hell with the consequences I just wanted to please the River Goddess and ask for this canoe. She asked me to think carefully. She asked me if I understood the risk. She asked me if I had knowledge of and faith in my surf batting skills.
I answered, “Yes, yes I do. Please give me the canoe.” She answered, “Okay, take it.”
I sat down in the Similkameen.
I sat down and set my back, a broad sail, against the current and moved out into the centre. Remembering to keep my feet forward and tread the stream with my hands.
I got out to my Holy Grail.
I rolled the Clipper off her rocky perch, dumping out the water that was in the seventeen-foot treasure.
Glad to be free the Clipper pivoted and took off down stream.
Before it could escape I seized a grip on the stern. Immediately the caved in side popped back out to its normal contour!
Hooray for the Clipper people in Abbotsford and the developers of Kevlar! Maybe I would have a repairable canoe. The River Goddess salutes you!
Now I had the canoe upside down and it was pulling me through the rapids.
I realized that if I kept it upside down, the air in it would keep the both of us afloat.
I was thrilled. Maybe the River Goddess was giving me this splendid craft.
We bounced through the next big rapid then spun out of control on a huge hidden boulder. I took on mouthfuls of water and almost lost my grip. I had to let the River Goddess do what She wanted to with the canoe. I was just to follow and hold on, keeping the craft upside down.
One more rapid and we were in calmer water, in sight of the beach at Bromley Rock.
As I pulled it up onto the beach my friends gathered around. They were impressed. They knew I didn’t own a canoe of any kind.
Questions started. “Was it really abandoned? Should I, could I, “…claim it as my own”.
“This canoe was abandoned,” I told them. “I was up the river for 15 minutes so you know I didn’t walk all the way to Princeton to steal it. There were no paddles with the canoe. Who would leave a buckled canoe in the river unless they didn’t want it?”
That rant rested my case.
I sold that Clipper canoe so I could purchase this splendid laptop I am writing this column on.
I am ready for another year at TRU. Consult the River Goddess.
Elon Newstrom is a Kamloops resident and sometime university student. He is on good terms with the River Goddess.