The Canoe Lesson

A cautionary tale. And a (sort of) true story.

The Bears went on a canoe trip down the Big River.

But before they left, Scotty Bear advised, “After that big rain, the river is high. Perhaps we should wait to give it a try.”

“Never fear”, Poppa Bear spoke up. “Benny Bear needs some lessons on what he’s doing when he sets out on Big River to do some canoeing!”

So several canoes set out to launch right on time. Poppa and Benny’s red canoe was first in line.

Scotty bear called out, “Though some people think it’s just an aggravation, please don’t forget to grab your flotation”

Poppa bear spoke up, “Strong swimmers like us, we just need a little. Throw us a float cushion, we’ll toss it in the middle!”

Then, adding to Benny Bear, “Now Benny, let this be a lesson to you, about what to do when you’re in a canoe.”

And so they were first in the water and set out down the river ahead of the rest. Poppa said staying out ahead of the group would be best.  “Now Benny, let this be a lesson to you, stay out in front of the pack when you’re in a canoe.”

Meanwhile the rest of the bear clan launched their boats, staying together. This was to keep an eye out and help one another.

And Sandy Bear said, “Wow! Poppa and Benny are nowhere in sight. I hope they make it downriver all right.”

Meantime, downriver in not too long, the current on Big River got a lot more strong.

And downriver, Poppa Bear observed, “Look at the water rushing under that low hanging tree. Just so you know what to do, son, watch me, you’ll see.”

“Now let this be a lesson to you. Just lean over the port side of the canoe.” And then he added, “We’ll slip right under this low hanging tree. Now lean over a bit more son, just like me…”


Meantime, upriver, Scotty Bear said, “The current along here is quite a bit faster. Be careful and stay near to avoid disaster!”

Sandy Bear observed, “I haven’t seen Poppa and Benny in quite some time,” and Scotty Bear replied, “Oh, with Poppa Bear’s experience, I’m sure they’re just fine.”

As they rounded the next bend, Scotty Bear warned, “Watch out, look there, up ahead I see, a very low hanging silver maple tree.”

Then beyond the silver maple, Sandy Bear spotted the red canoe in the water.  Relieved, she said, “I’m sure glad they waited, I was starting to worry. With this kind of current, there’s really no need to hurry.”

Then Sandy Bear added suddenly, “But the red canoe is upside down!  And they’re both in the water! Goodness me, they may drown!”

But just then Poppa Bear called out, “Don’t worry about us. I was just giving Benny a lesson and we took a dunk. I’m just hanging out here holding this flooded tree trunk.”

Scotty Bear paddled for the bank, “There’s Benny over there pulling the flooded canoe on the shore. He could really use some help, that’s for sure!”

Sandy Bear asked, “Was anything lost? Are you sure you’re OK?” and Poppa replied, “I’m fine but I think our floatation floated away…”

Meantime Benny Bear hoisted the flooded canoe up on the bank saying, “We certainly have Poppa’s quick thinking to thank!”

Poppa climbed out of the water onto the shore.

“Here I’ll help out, I know just what you need.” But exhausted, he slipped and fell in the itchy weed.

But soon Poppa and Benny were back in their boat, and Scotty Bear said, “Alright, let’s now safely get on with this float!”

Poppa and Benny were cold, wet and tired. “But we’ll be back soon and can sit by the campfire!”

And after that, Poppa and Benny knew just what to do. They stayed close to the group in their red canoe.

Later in the evening, Poppa and the other Bears sat down by the campfire, and he spun the harrowing tale of their situation, dire.

Poppa began, “Now let this be a lesson to you…”

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, August 1, 2013, by Scott Hays

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