Back in 2003 I was fiercely into canoeing, especially racing, and noticed on a website that I checked frequently an offer of a free hat and t-shirt for any humorous story good enough to be published on-line. I thought about it for a few days and decided that I had a story. I put pen to paper and recreated a day that happened many years ago, and sent it in to the website. I was very excited when I heard back from them that they liked the story and wanted to put it up on the website, and I let them know what hat and shirt I wanted, and that was that.
After several months or maybe even a year passed I got a phone call asking for me. When I affirmed that it was me they were speaking with, the person asked if I was the one who had written the story on the website and I said that I was, wondering what on earth this person wanted. He then told me he was the person IN the story and I about fell over backwards – here we were some 12 years later and I was talking to my old friend that I had written about in the story. It turned out he had come across it on the website, and knew that it had to be the story that we had lived that fall.
That would be kind of cool – reading a random story on the web, and slowly realizing that it involved you.
And that, I thought, was that.
Then, fast forward to 2009, 6 years since the story appeared on the web, and some 20 years since it happened, and I got an email from the website saying that there was someone that wanted to get in touch with me about publishing the story in a collection of outdoor stories. I got in touch with the publisher, and the story appeared in “Never Trust A Smiling Bear” in 2010.
It’s amazing to me that this little anecdote from 20 years ago has set off the chain of events that it has – you just never know where the little things in life will take you – and that is the story of the story. I wonder where else it may lead?
This was the story as it first appeared in 2003,
We drifted slowly down the alder choked stream, occasionally having to use their branches to pull ourselves along. There were trees across the stream that had pieces cut out of them with a chainsaw with just enough of an opening for a canoe to get through. The water was tannin stained and full of weed growth, the bottom a black tangle of hundreds of years worth of leaves and twigs, with sandbars here and there that we would temporarily rest upon, before digging our paddles into the muck to get moving again.
My college roommate and I had decided to try duck hunting, and neither one of us had really ever been before, and we were headed down Sunkaze stream in Old Town, Maine, which led to a giant marsh with water channels ribboned through its length, an area we thought would be perfect for ducks. It was early November, and it had been a very cold November, and pockets of the stream that saw little daylight had a skim of ice on them. The morning was still and very cold, and as the sun began to rise mist started steaming of the water. I was in the stern, and my roommate was in the bow as we twisted and turned through the stream, trying to remember all the turns we were taking so we could make it back to the truck. The bowman announced he had to go to the bathroom and there being no solid ground around to speak of, I nosed the canoe into a large hummock that was covered with grass and a few scraggly alders. Just as he stood up there was a burst of water and noise as ducks on the other side of the hummock took to the air, it seemed as though they were everywhere.
We sat in stunned silence, mouths hanging open, neither us, nor the ducks had noticed each other until by fate, we had picked that spot to go to the bathroom. We gathered our wits, and figured with all the ducks flying around the marsh, we should be able to call one in. Paddling downstream a bit, we came to a rather wide piece of water, and we were camoflaged somewhat by tall grass on all sides. We decided this would be the place to try to call a duck, and after a few calls, we had a lone duck headed our way moving quickly. We almost had no time to react as we lifted our guns and aimed at the duck that was bearing down on us and fired.
In that next instant we were both swimming, discovering that it is in fact possible to shoot ones self right out of a canoe; bang and you’re in the drink. I had my gun in one hand, the canoe and paddle in the other. My roommate had dropped his gun, and dove for it in the frigid water. We quickly swam to where we could sink in the muck and only be up to our knees, and emptied the canoe, and started back upstream, not a word past “Are you alright?” spoken after the incident. I think paddling so hard upstream and wool pants kept me from freezing to death that day on the way back to the truck, and we put the canoe on it’s racks with clothes that were literally frozen solid. We got into the truck and cranked up the heat, and after our clothes went from ice to dripping water my companion looked at me and said “you know, we don’t need to tell anyone back at the dorm what happened today”. I laughed and agreed, wondering what that duck was telling his buddies.
You can find the book the story was published in, along with other humorous outdoor stories below;