Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rowing class

I am in a rowboat on a lake in Bear Mountain, New York in the '70's. The boat is full of inner city kids, most of whom don't know how to swim.

I know this because there's a large sign up by the dock showing how they did on the swim test. Most are beginning swimmers or "minnows".

The boat is rocking back and forth because the "minnows" have decided to live daringly, perhaps fooled by the nickname that they are fish. They don't want to row the boat, but they do enjoy tempting fate, leaning out of it into the water although I've repeatedly asked them to keep their hands inside, life jackets or not.

I've just graduated from college and wish to see another day, so I plunk the oars in the water loudly to splash and shout at them to sit. They do, but when I turn around, surprised by their instant obedience, I see it's because we've approached an island in the middle of the lake, called Snake Island. It's rumored by the older campers to be full of deadly snakes. I let the boat drift closer and the campers look around the sides of the rowboat to see how many snakes are withering around in the water.

Minnows don't like to swim with snakes.

I lay back to enjoy the sunshine, sensing an opportunity to relinquish the oars.

"Snake Island," I say, yawning. "Maybe this is where we should have lunch."

It's easy to motivate campers to learn new skills in a natural environment full of many wonders. I bet lots of camp brochures say so.

No comments: