Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Crow

A warm Saturday in April, four guys in their early twenties decide to paddle two canoes down the Crow River. The river is high and running fast so they figure they can make some good distance. They drop a car off 20 miles or so down river and pack some sandwiches and beers for lunch. Only one of them is an experienced paddler, but he has only paddled lakes in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, the other three will be on a steep learning curve. It’s going to be a great day! The first town they come to is Hanover, as they get close someone sees them from shore and runs out along the river yelling something about a dam, they humor the guy and pull up to shore about 50 feet from the drop to check it out. What could possibly happen, the water is going over the drop as smooth as silk, and it’s only a small drop of maybe six feet, it could be lots of fun. Grudgingly they carry the canoes around the dam and are off again for the rest of the adventure. A late afternoon lunch stop on a warm sand bar and they are starting to wonder how long 20 miles of river is compared to the drive on the road to drop the car off, it sure seems like a long time since they started. The river is high here, and much of the water has overflowed the banks and is going through trees. It might be fun to paddle the canoe between the bank and the trees. But they manage to broach one of the canoes between two trees, and now their first experience of ice cold water as it flows instantly through their cotton clothing. The other canoe is in the middle of the river and witnesses the event, they quickly try and turn about to help their friends. In their haste to turn around they manage to go over also. The first canoe was close to shore, so they get the canoe emptied and climb back in to try and rescue the other two, who are still floating down river. Amazingly they gather all the floating possessions and catch up to the other canoe, they had managed to pull up to shore and empty the canoe and were getting ready climb back in. It was still a long way to the car with everyone cold and wet. A farmer sitting at his dinner table just happened to look out his window and noticed a swamped canoe floating down river, and then shortly behind two people. The kind man he was as he drove his pickup down to find them. He brought everyone back to the farmhouse and gave them dry clothes to wear and let them warm up next to the old wood stove. He then drove them down to pick up their car. He was the second person that day to save the lives of those four guys who knew nothing about paddling a canoe down an ice cold river in April.
My blood still runs cold everytime I think about the Hanover dam. I was in the canoe that broached the two trees that warm April day in 1977.

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