Mississippi River south of Aitkin, MN – September 15, 2012
“How’d you get that canoe all the way up here?” the kid asked.
He and his friend rolled their bikes closer to get a better look.
“Dragged it,” I said.
The two of them stared at the kayak, then the ten foot tall mud bank, then at me.
“Where you goin’?” the first kid asked.
“Key West,” I said. “If I can make it.”
“You worried about sharks?” his friend asked.
“Not too much,” I said.
“They think you’re a seal and then, wham!” the first kid said as he clapped his hands together. “You’re dead!”
“I suppose,” I said. “But this is a pretty big boat for a seal.”
“What about Jaws?” the first kid said.
“Jaws isn’t real,” I said.
“Jaws is too for real,” the first kid said.
“Maybe,” I said. “But I’m not too worried about Jaws on this river.”
“People say they’ve seen sharks in the river,” the second kid said. “Down not too far away.”
“There aren’t any sharks in the river,” I said, laughing.
“Yea, probably not,” the second kid said. “Maybe they just saw a big catfish or something.”
They both looked unconvinced and a bit shaken that I didn’t believe in sharks on the Mississippi.
“There are gators down south though,” I said. “That’s something to watch out for.”
The kids’ eyes sparked to life again.
“You aren’t worried about the gators?” the first kid said.
“Not too much,” I said. “They’ll think I’m a big yellow gator and leave me alone.”
“What about a big gator?” the second kid said. “On TV they had a gator called ‘Big Mama’ and it would have gone from here to that tree!”
He pointed to a tree about 25 feet away.
“It’s head was this big,” he said.
His arms spread out as wide as he could hold them.
“Or a bit bigger,” he clarified.
“Well, maybe a gator that big, I’d worry about,” I said.
They looked unconvinced. They both stared at the ground for a moment, kicking at leaves and thinking.
“What about fallin’ in the water?” the first kid said. “You ever fall in?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“What happens if you do?” he asked. “Do you die?”
I looked at the river. It was maybe a hundred feet across.
“I’d probably just swim to shore, I suppose,” I said.
“Swim in that river?” the kid said. “You’re crazy! There’s a current in there! It’ll take ya.”
“Well, you’d just float down with it until you could get to a bank,” I said. “And if you held onto the boat, you wouldn’t sink at all.”
The two kids looked at me and frowned. They’d tried to come up with some way I would be certain to die, but none of their ideas seemed to stick much. It became clear to them that even their best efforts could not save me from a boring trip. They said goodbye, jumped on their bikes, and pedaled away into a Saturday afternoon.