It happened a few years ago, another harrowing story of survival while camping, as members of my family and I lazily drifted along on our floaties. We drifted upon the waters of the Chippewa Flowage, catching some sun, sharing a laugh or two, and basking in the beauty around us. Suddenly, three of us noticed we had drifted a bit away from the rest.
Yep, we were caught in the current. The other two weren’t ensnared enough and were able to ease into the water and touch bottom. Not me. Are you surprised? Me neither. No matter how I flailed my flabby arms in the water, trying to paddle my way out of it, the current continued to carry me away. My family called after me, offering instructions, but there was nothing I could do. I waved good bye as I rounded the bend and disappeared behind the rushes. I probably should have been afraid, but I wasn’t. Sooner or later, land and I would meet once again and all would be good.
I knew there were other campers father down where the campground continued and surely they would move heaven and earth to save me. Wouldn’t they? Well, the campsites were empty of all human activity and it appeared I was completely on my own. I did think I would have seen my family coming after me by this point, but no. In their defense, they may have thought that once I rounded the bend I was able to loosen myself from the current and was hiking back through the woods.
The current continued to hold on tight, pulling me out into the middle of the channel, farther out into the water, away from land. Further the flowage, there was a culvert where a road connected the islands. I was quite certain that once I neared the culvert, I should be able to touch bottom. Of course, if I couldn’t touch and the current spit me through to the other side, that would be bad. And, if I hoisted myself off the tube to test the depth, how in the world would I get back in if I couldn’t touch? My swimming skills weren’t what they used to be, so that was a bit worrisome.
Realizing there was nothing I could do until I reached the culvert, I kicked back in my tube, pulled my straw cowboy hat over my face, crossed my ankles, arms resting on the tube, and enjoyed the ride. What else could I do?
Suddenly a thought hit me. What if this old tube I had shoved my bottom into sprung a leak? After all, it was old and now carrying the girth of someone a long way from petite. And, what if, in the murky depths below, a musky was eyeing my hind quarters for lunch. I swear I heard the theme song to ‘Jaws’ pulsing over the waves.
I was vulnerable and no amount of panic was going to fix that. And still, no family in sight. I’m not always a peach to live with, but for heaven’s sake, I really thought they liked me better than that.
Just when I had resigned myself to circling the flowage for the rest of my days, or the life of my tube, from around the far bend came my sister, Betti, in her kayak. God bless her! Upon spying me bobbing upon the waves, she doubled over and laughed so hard she couldn’t work the paddles. She still had tears of laughter running down her face when she pulled up alongside. Once she was able to get a hold of herself, I flipped over on the tube, grabbed the back of her kayak and was towed to shore like a big, old barge of cellulite.
In closing, this is one of those camping stories that doesn’t go away. Nor should it. It still makes us laugh like crazy, but was a good lesson in how fast Mother Nature can take over. Be safe out there, people. Betti can only be so many places at once!