Last Sunday, after church, everyone had left, someone had to get the canoe back to the friendly neighbor who had loaned it to us. It was a short paddle across the little inlet shared by four or five houses, so I volunteered. Sissy the Dog followed me to the back door but I kept her inside.
I hadn't been down to the dock this whole trip due to my knee problems, and the stair way was long and steep. However, I told myself, if I just took it slow I'd have no problems.
The second step was a doozy. Built of two-by-six boards, thirty years of weathering had decayed either the board or the support and I fell through to my waist in splintered lumber.
A minor scrape on my left leg, a twisted ankle on my right, and an elevated heart rate left me wondering for a moment how I would extricate myself.
Unknown to me at the time, Sissy the Dog had been watching all this time and hurried off to pull a Lassie. She went to the den where Mary Ann was working on the family photos she took at the funeral. Sissy frantically tried to get her attention. Mary Ann was aware of how she had been following me around and tried to reassure Sissy that I was okay. I had just gone down to the dock and I'd be right back.
I was in pain, but as I climbed out of the hole and checked to see if I could walk on the injured ankle, I decided it was minor and ... cautiously ... went on down the steps.
The dock had been the location of many a good time in the past three decades and it was sad to see what age and weather had done to it in these past few years as age had confined my father to the house.
In the middle was a nice fiberglass and aluminum canoe. I untied the rope and eased down as well as my knee let me. It wasn't good enough. I overbalanced and over we went.
The first thought that came to mind was the canoe. It was filled to within an inch. Would it sink? It wasn't mine and this water dropped off to 90 feet deep within just a few yards. I did not want to lose it. I grabbed the thick yellow poly rope and managed to lash it to the dock. Then I could think about how to get myself out of my fix.
I was inside the U formed by the dock and probably no one could see me. But, with my accumulated body fat, I was hardly in danger of sinking. I looked in my shirt pocket. I had left my iPhone up at the
house, joking about it as I walked past Mary Ann on the way out. But
my earphones were still there, sloshing in my pocket. My wallet and business card case were soaked as well. Oh, well. I needed to print up a fresh batch of cards anyway.
But I did need to get out of the water. I remembered a ladder on the other side of the dock, but as soon as I swam around, I realized that the rungs had rotted away long ago. I looked around at the neighbors' docks, but I didn't see any obvious ladders.
I'd have to climb ashore. Not easy. This wasn't a beach. It was nearly a vertical drop off and I was within reach of the yucca and sawgrass before I felt mud below my feet. It was like climbing a cliff. The grass was my hand grip, and there were rocks to climb. Other than a pear of grass in my right eye, I got out with no problem.
But standing on shore with the lake water draining out of my pockets, I still had that canoe to deal with. I toyed with bailing it out, then decided to just pull it up onto the dock. That was surprisingly easy. My canoe at home is much heavier than this one.
"Are you through with that?" It was the owner, calling from across the water.
He made his way around the shore and we chatted about my parents, the fishing, other neighbors and things. Nice guy. Lots of stories. Finally, he paddled his way home and I sloshed my way back up the stairs. At least I had a story to tell.