|It was a day just like this. This picture is of the|
Stillwater River in Darke County.
It was the summer of 1973. As I recall, maybe the weekend after my 20th birthday, late July.
My sorority had planned a canoe trip on the Stillwater River and it was a beautiful day. There were quite a few of us who attended. I was in the canoe with one of my sisters, Cyndi and her boyfriend Mark, who eventually became her husband. I had one of those "safe" dates, Fred, who I really did like, but he was practically engaged, so it was a friendship situation.
What was about to happen, though, took all of our relationships to a deeper level.
I was not wearing a life jacket; it's a darn good thing or I would not be writing this blog. We were floating down the river, serene as it could be for a Sunday afternoon, until there was an island in the middle of the river and we had to choose "the fork in the road." We made the wrong choice.
We could see it coming, a big log stretched out over the river and we knew we were going to hit it. Fred told me later that he and Mark “planned” the trajectory of how to hit it, so this or that would happen. Huh? He’s an engineer or something. All I cared about was there goes my camera! Oh well.....
I came up, but I didn't come up. While my head was out of the water, I was facing the log (backwards) and the "rapids" were coming over the log into my face. I could not breathe. The canoe was lodged in my back and I could not move. I remember working my feet really hard so I could get my head higher, but I was not accomplishing anything.
The guys were diving under desperately trying to dislodge the canoe. I was aware of what they were doing, and I was plenty scared. What I didn't know at the time was they were plenty scared too! Within a short period of time Cyndi got up on the log and sat right in front of my face to keep the water out, buying us time. It wasn't the greatest view, but under the circumstances, I was NOT picky. She sat there diverting the water, and cupped my terrified face in her hands, lifting my head up.
The guys kept at it. I was aware of it; and I was not losing consciousness. It seemed to take forever. I worked very hard to free myself. Self-preservation is a much stronger instinct than any other! What I learned many years later was that Fred feared dislodging me, but then not "catching" me and I would head down the river......
He did catch me. I remember sitting on the log and him holding me while I cried. He may have been crying too, I don't remember. What I do remember was feeling that as long as I lived, this guy had a place in my heart that no one would ever replace. That goes for Cyndi and Mark too!
After a period of time, we got back in the canoe--I had no OTHER choice--and headed down the river. I think I shook the whole way. It was a sunny day and we were all warm enough, but I was shaking. Sometime, and I don't remember when, I noticed the cuts and bruises on Fred's back and I cried. The sacrifice he willingly made to save my life.
When I got home, I could see where my pelvic bones were all bruised too, where I was held by the canoe. However, I was most impacted by the bruises on his body. We hung out at home for awhile and after he left, I told my parents.
Four years later, I married "nature boy" Jerry, and I told him IF he ever took my children canoeing, I was not to know about it. He did, and I learned about it after the fact.