Sunday, December 01, 2013


It was an early morning in June and there was a light rain. We were headed west on Highway 67 to the Brazos River. I was driving.

“I hope this rain stops,” I said.

“It will,” said Jim. “The weatherman says it will clear out of here before the morning is over. It’s gonna’ be a perfect day.”

It was not a long drive. We reached the river in less than half-an-hour, and on the east side of the bridge pulled up in front of a canoe rental place and went inside. The rain had let up and now the sun was breaking through the clouds.

“You were right,” I said. “Looks like it’s gonna’ be a perfect day.”

We rented an aluminum canoe. It came with paddles and two life jackets. A big guy named loaded it into the back of a pickup. We transferred our sleeping bags, ice chest, sacks of food, and other items from my car into the pickup. Then we hopped in and Buddy drove us to the drop-off point several miles to the south.

As we bumped along the dirt road, Buddy looked at Jim and said, “You’ve been out here before, haven’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Jim, “a couple of years ago.”

“I thought so,” said Buddy. “That feller that was with you, did he live?”

“You mean Eddie Ray,” said Jim, with a chuckle. “Yeah, he lived. We got him to the hospital.”

“Heat stroke, wasn’t it?”


“I knew it. Well, I hope you brought along some water this time.”

“We brought water last time, but all Eddie Ray would drink was beer.”

Buddy laughed, shaking his head. “Well, I'm glad he lived. Some of 'em don't.”

At the drop-off point, Buddy helped us unload. Then he said, “Well, you know what to do. When you get back, leave the canoe under the bridge and come and get me.”

Buddy drove away. Jim and I pushed the canoe into the shallow water and started packing it. We did so carefully, but once the canoe tipped, almost spilling everything.

“We should tie this stuff down,” I said. “If it tips out in the middle of the river, we could lose everything. Do you have anything to tie it with?”

“I’ve got some bungee cord, but it’s at home.”

“Well, it won’t do us any good there.”

“Aw, don’t worry about it,” said Jim. “Last time I was out here we had two canoes and neither one tipped. This isn’t the Guadalupe. There’s no rapids on this river. Once we start moving, it’ll be smooth sailing. You just have to be careful—don’t move around a lot, don’t stand up.”

“Yeah, I know that much.”

When we finished packing the canoe, I held it steady while Jim climbed into the bow, crouching low to keep his body weight low. Then I did the same as I climbed into the stern while Jim steadied the canoe with his paddle.

“What about these life jackets?” I asked.

“We don’t need them,” said Jim. “Like I say, there’s no rapids. This’ll be a smooth ride. But—” he picked up his life jacket “—they make good cushions. These seats are hard and we’re going to be sitting a long time.”

This sounded like a good idea, so I followed Jim’s example and placed my life jacket on the metal seat. For added comfort, we kicked off our shoes.

“Ready?” said Jim.


Comfortably seated on our life jackets, we rowed away from the shady bank out onto the sparkling river.

There was no one else on the river at that hour, so it was perfectly quiet—just the splash of the oars and the cooing of a dove somewhere on shore. And high above the tall oaks and pecan, the clouds continued to break up, revealing a wondrous blue sky. All so reminiscent of so many June mornings I had known in North Texas long ago. I was at peace, more at peace than I had been in years.

I’ve missed this old river, I thought …

(To be continued …)