If you can't dodge rocks in your canoe, maybe you should choose another pastime. I'd like to think I can dodge them all, although I'm dreaming. I've left a few boats on the rocks in my time, and I may leave another few yet twisted around the boulders, before I hang up my paddle.
Yet it's not just the rocks in the water I've had to dodge over the years. I recall three separate incidents when the rocks have come towards me in the air as well. These ones aren't so easy to dodge, and are much more dangerous, lemmetellya.
Pete, Biff and I were paddling on the Nashwaak one fall, and the water was low. It was so low that I abandoned my paddle and resorted to snubbing down the cobblestone stream, standing upright amidships and pushing off and around the boulders with my trusty pole.
We had just scraped under the bridge at Stanley and were gliding under a high bank. Above, in a schoolyard, several young persons had gathered to observe our slow and laborious passage downstream.
Then I saw and heard the splashes, and looked up to see three or four children lobbing stones at us from perhaps thirty metres or so above. I don't know how big the rocks were, but if they had hit us from that height, I wouldn't be telling you this story now.
Thankfully, an adult, perhaps the recess supervisor, came running over and hollered at the children to stop it right now. I don't know what happened after, as we were soon out of range. I can only hope the adult imparted a few well-chosen words of wisdom to the leaders of tomorrow.
Another time, I was enjoying a summer's day, again on the Nashwaak, this time in the vicinity of the walking bridge that joins the communities of Barkers Point and Devon. I saw the young person standing on the bridge and made eye contact with him, as I approached the bridge from upstream in my Ogilvy 16 on my way to the mouth of the river into the Saint John.
I still wonder to this day why he felt he had to drop the rock onto my head as I emerged from under the bridge on the other side. It wasn't big, but damn it hurt right on the top of my skull. I didn't give him the satisfaction of looking back at him, it wouldn't have changed matters in the slightest. I often fantasize that I should have played dead, slumped forward, rolled my canoe over and hidden underneath it, giving him something to think about for the rest of his life after he ran away.
One more incident stays with me still. My friend Donna and I were paddling on the Keswick, down a rocky stretch that parallels the old-railway-bed-cum-ATV-trail. Another friend had hired his buddies to drive us and our boats to the put-in several kilometers upstream where the trail crosses the river at the old train bridge near Barton.
They drove back downriver and waited for us at a spot where the river curved directly under the trail. So around the turn we came, and these two jokers were holding rocks the size of bowling balls the way a Scotsman would hold a caber at the Highland Games. These weren't young men either, they should have "known better."
Up went the rocks, and kasploosh they landed, several of them one after the other, in a fountain of spray. I think they were trying to see how close to us they could come without actually hitting us. One or two came so close we were wet from the splash. I don't know who won their silly game, they were hootin' 'n' hollerin' with every toss, but I can tell you for sure who almost lost.
So what's the point of my silly story? You can draw your own conclusion. I'd say, don't put anything past those people on shore when you're coming down the river in your boat.
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