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Down the Road

Canoeing and tipping over
By Milt Gross
May 25, 2014 - 12:25:31 AM

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I love canoeing.

My father taught me how to paddle at a little park in West Chester, PA, where there was a fairly wide brook. (In Pennsylvania, we called them creeks. It wasn't until I was teaching sixth graders in Monroe that I found out that creeks in Maine are called brooks. When I talked about creeks, the kids told me they had no idea about what I was talking.)

I believe it was called Brandywine Creek. But whatever the brook was called, Dad's lessons stuck with me.

Of course, those lessons didn't include loading the canoe onto the car, because these were rental canoes.

When I was a bit older, teenager, a friend and I went canoeing in Westtown Lake, a tiny pond compared to most of Maine's ponds. That was okay except for the day he decided to stand up and tip us over. We were in shallow water, about four feet deep. That was my first unpleasant canoeing adventure. Mike thought it was funny. I thought it was wet.

As a young man, my father would canoe the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania.

He sat on the edge of the gunnel, which meant that if the canoe hits a bump in the river, he was in danger of falling in. Of course, not many rivers have bumps, so he never fell in.

The important part of that tale of Dad canoeing is that he couldn't swim. He also never tipped a canoe or fell into the river.

I, on the other hand, was in a second canoe that tipped...with my permission. We were paddling, maybe on Moose Pond west of Bridgton, my tipping-over memory has faded so I'm not sure that was the lake. My daughter and a friend wanted me to take them out, so I did. They kept telling me I didn't need my glasses or watch, so, duh, I knew the tippy prank was in their devious minds.

They tried several times, but from the stern I prevented it until we were near a dock. Then, whoops, over we went. We dragged the canoe onto the dock and righted it before continuing or canoeing adventure.

I've canoed on short stretches of rivers, up to three or four miles, been caught in the wind on lakes and had to head for shore on one lake where the wind caught us by surprise after we cleared the peninsula where we had started.

My elderly mother was in the canoe then, and after we got the bow safely on land, I asked her if she had been afraid.

"Why would I be afraid?" she asked.

My oldest son, then in his early teens, wanted to canoe on Daicey Pond in Baxter during a birthday getaway for him. He was in the canoe, and I was on the dock, when I asked him if he wanted any instructions.

"No!" he informed dear old Dad.

Dear old Dad then pushed the canoe away from the dock, and dear old Dad stood and chuckled as Stephen set out to sea backwards.

He hollered for help, and I gave him the instructions.

Warning: do not try this at home or in a nearby lake unless you want to hear your teenager cuss and holler for help at the same time.

Morale: teenagers don't want instructions from adults....especially parents.

Our 14-foot Old Town canoe resting last fall, where it still rests this spring. I've spent more time with the wheelbarrow than with the canoe, so we're giving it to my much younger daughter and her husband. They canoe a lot, as I did when I was a much younger father. Milt Gross photo.

In Belgrade, a hundred years ago or so while on vacation, my parents and I rented a rowboat to tackle Messalonskee Stream. The stream wasn't bad, but the rowboat had a crooked keel, so I rowed left and right to go straight.

I was proud of my dad on a paddle up Webb Lake in the town of Weld, where we were staying at the no-longer-existing Weld Inn. The inn had no place to get the canoe to the lake via the car, so I drove around to the end of the lake.

A storm was playing around in the distance, but we started anyhow. Dad sat in the bow and paddled.

The only problem was he had lost his eyesight by this time in his life, but he paddled -- even though he couldn't see the storm.

I think he could feel the lake getting a bit rough.

"I hope you know how to paddle!" he hollered back to me.

"If I don't, it's your fault. You taught me," I replied.

We made it to the inn property okay.

Dad helped me repaint parts of the canoe that needed it during our stay at the inn.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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