Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day River Trip

Not more than a hundred yards from where we launched, the water runs swiftly under a sycamore tree tilting out from the bank only a few feet above the water. SY in the bow yells and leans hard to the right. C, in the middle, having been in a canoe many times, drops down. I catch the tree and hold the boat still. SY’s hat is caught in the tree. Reaching out, she knocks it in the water and fishes it out with her hand. Eeww, she whines. The trip isn’t starting out well.

“Don’t lean to the side,” I instruct before we leave the tree. SY has never been in a canoe. “If we’re going under brush, lean forward with the canoe.” SY practices. The survival instinct is strong across cultures; whenever we were within 50 feet of a limb, she ducks into the front of the canoe.

It’s a risky proposition, talking my daughter C and SY, our exchange student on a river trip. SY has been here less than a week. But it’s a beautiful day and this will be an experience she’ll remember. I give her some basic instructions on paddling and we push off into the Thornapple, leaving the town behind. Mostly the trip is uneventful. The near mishap with the sycamore is the closest we come to swimming. There’s a large maple across the river, requiring us to get out of the boat, balancing ourselves on the log, while hauling the boat over it. Although we’re in no danger, she’s a bit nervous. I suppose standing out in the middle of the river on a log isn’t a trait that comes naturally.

The river is low, normal for this late in the season. Over many gravel bars, we find ourselves walking, pulling the canoe. In other areas, long green weeds grow in the water, hiding rocks just below surface. The weeds, stretching down river, wave with the current.

When we tire of paddling, I pull out a small rod and cast a spinner into any shaded hole along the bank. On my third cast, I get a strike. The fish comes to the surface; jumps clear out of the water and dives. SY yells, “What is it?” I loosen the drag and play him for a few minutes, tiring him out before reeling him in. It’s by no means the largest bass I caught this summer, but he’s a nice one. Holding him up for SY to see, I tell her that we now have dinner. “But I don’t eat fish,” she says.

“What,” I think to myself. “A Korean that doesn’t eat fish, that’d be like an American kid that doesn’t eat hot dogs and hamburgers. My daughter doesn’t eat hot dogs or hamburgers. She’ll eat a cheeseburger, as long as you hold the burger.

“You don’t eat fish,” I ask?

“No, I don’t like it,” she says.

“I ate all kinds of fish in Korea, broiled fish, fried fish, stewed fish and even raw fish,” I confess, hoping she’ll admit to liking one kind of fish.

“But I don’t like any of them,” she insists.

I catch a few more bass, but they’re all too small to keep.

A bit later, we stop on a sandbar for lunch. C. has bagels and cream cheese. SY and I have sandwiches. She also offers me a square of seaweed. I take it, crumble it into my mouth, much as if I was taking a chew of tobacco, and watch my daughter make a disgusting face.

After lunch, the water slows as we enter the backwaters of Irvin Dam. We see many herons and ducks and in the mill pond at Irvin is the home of several swans. I hook a Great Northern Pike. SY gets all excited as struggle to reel him up to the boat. Excited, she jumps around, tipping the boat back and forth. “It’s so big,” she shouts when she spots him in the water. The fish has no intention to getting too close to the boat and runs back out. I let him have line, before bringing him back to the boat. He may be 18 inches, well short of the 24 inch limit for ‘northerns. I let him go. A few minutes later we arrive at the take out just above the dam. Both SY and C are ready to get off the river.

Thinking back on yesterday, it was a good trip. There are hints that autumn isn’t far away. A few isolated branches of Maples have a tinge of color. The air is cool enough that we didn’t have to worry about sweating profusely, yet the water is still warm enough to walk in. That’ll soon change. School has begun. Before long the leaves will change and ice will begin to appear around the banks of the river, slowly working its way out into the middle of the channel. Until then, I’ll have to make the best of it.


  1. I hope SY has a blog. It would be interesting to read her view of all this stuff that the crazy old American man did. ;-)

  2. I wouldn't have guessed not liking fish either. Is she vegetarian?

    Someday I would love to host another foreign exchange student. I love seeing the world through a different set of eyes. A blog by SY would be very interesting. How old is she by the way? What do you do about calling home? I have a world call phone plan that allows me to call the pacific rim cheaper than my parent's far 40 miles away but I'm guessing that average person doesn't have that. Last year my annual phone statement review said I saved almost $15,000 by using the phone plan!

  3. what a beautiful little tale :)

    not liking fish?? what is the world coming too..?

  4. What kind of background checks does one have to go through before hosting a foreign exchange student?

  5. M (murf), I don't think she has a blog and if she did, it'd be in Korean--she has enough "English" challenges just to live here and go to school. And Murf, why questions about the background check, are you trying to figure out if you'd pass or how it was that I passed? Yes, they do a background check, I know they called references and I'm sure they ran police checks as they have driver license numbers.

    Ed, you should have exchange students once your daughter gets old enjoy to enjoy the experience. Not only is it good for the student, it's good for our children.

    Keda, that's what I thought too. I was willing to share my bass with her and who's going to help me eat all the fish in my freezer?

  6. Sage - If she's telling tales about you, I'd consider that a worthwhile reason to learn Korean.

    I was thinking of both reasons, actually. With leaving you off of the list of references, I'm sure I'd pass with flying colours.

    Also, just for you, I'll sign in as Murf. ;-)

  7. Here you go again, Murf, you’re now contaminating my blog with your faux-British spelling. If you were writing from across the pond, I wouldn’t have a problem, but you’re writing from across a mid-western state. You’re an American, pray-tell-it. Over here, color is spelled c-o-l-o-r. Leave out those unnecessary “u’s.”

  8. Sage - Ooh...a lecture. Usually I hate them. Coming from you though, it has the opposite effect but I was hoping to somehow use 'cheque' before it all drove you nuts.

  9. you can use cheque all you want provided that your check is in the mail

  10. I'm hand delivering it, actually. :-)

  11. The river trip sounded like fun. I find that many times a day doesn't need to be eventful to be a good day. Sometimes just being out in nature or just being with other people we like or want to get to know better makes the day.

  12. Oh, I am enjoying the back-and-forth with you and murf as much as the blog! ;-)

    This sounds lovely. (Well, maybe not the squares of seaweed)........ I look forward to many more tales with SY.

  13. A good story, Sage, and I like the last paragraph.

  14. Tia - I'm glad to know that it entertains you as much as it does me. Just for you, I will make teasing/picking on Sage my new hobby. :-)

  15. Tim, your comments about being in nature that remind me of that bumpersticker that reads, "A bad fishing is better than a good day working..."

    Tia, glad you enjoy the bantering with Murf. We all have our crosses to bear.

    Thanks Kenju.

    M(urf), your new hobby?

  16. The closest I get to being "out in nature" is putting the top down on my convertible. However, I get to read about your adventures, and view Tim's pictures, so I feel just like John Muir.


  17. Great post as usual Sage. Glad to hear you all had a nice time out.

    PS - Sorry about the commenting problems on my blog, but as I have transferred my blog to Blogger Beta this problems will remain for the near future. You can still comment by using the "other" or "anonymous" features. Hope that explains things. Take care.

  18. Poor SY. You terrorize her and then starve her!

    I think she will really enjoy the time with you guys.....and I don't eat hot dogs anymore either. Only turkey dogs!

  19. Well, Sage...I'm surprised to find that as of yet, there is no rebuttal to my proclamation that deep, deep, deep down, underneath your hatred of country music, you enjoy me picking on ya. ;-)

  20. great story *S* I do not think you have to "make the best of it", I think you have the best of it

  21. I'm here to lend moral support for you finishing your new post! =)

    And to wish you an awesome weekend from Michele's!

  22. Like so much of what you write, this was beautifully written. I spent a lot of time in canoes when I was a kid.

    I learned how to handle one in summer camp, and every summer I'd head even further up north on a week-long trek through a huge provincial park. We'd paddle from campsite to campsite, relying on our wits and a plan.

    It was a thrill, and your entry vividly brought it all back. Lovely.