The Union Recorder


May 17, 2014

ROWLAND: A boat ride worth the memory even if he slept through the whole thing

MILLEDGEVILLE — I recently had cause to think back to my first experience with boats. At first glance, I went back to my early teenaged years. But after I thought about it a bit, I had to go back even further.

I couldn't have been more than about 10 years old when my family experienced regular weekend camping trips with the Cookson family. Now I have to tell you that back in the day the thought of a travel trailer or motorhome was never part of the equation.

We are talking about primitive camping at its finest. There may have been a bath house, but electricity and running water were completely out of the question.

The two camping spots lodged firmly in my memory are Indian Springs and High Falls State Parks. Each of those parks has a small lake, and I remember the fact that John Cookson had a small out board motor but no boat.

We rented a boat at the park, hung the old nine horsepower motor on its transom, and fished in the lake. Just to be clear, those boats we rented were not very big, and I seem to remember that the big deal of the trip was to get to steer the motor.

Just to complete the picture, we are talking about a motor with a hand throttle and steering arm. For a 10-year-old boy, that boat could fly. Knowing what I know now, we really just puttered around the lake.

By the time I was 12, my dad bought an aluminum boat that was only slightly bigger than the boats I remember from the state parks. It had four bench seats, a 20-horsepower Johnson Seahorse motor, and it was ours.

Many a fishing trip centered on that old boat. We generally fished around Haslem's Marina and Optimist Island. In fact, we often tied up under the old railroad trestle, let the current carry our bait down the length of the bridge piling, and caught more bream than we could eat in a month.

Those were some pretty good times.

My dad was really a good sport. He let me drive a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle from the time I was 12 until I eventually traded it for my first truck in 1983.  By the time I turned 16, I had more hours behind the wheel than a lot of adults.

I think that's why so many young people stink at driving today. Not enough experience; but that is a column for another day.

That first boat was my car on water. Anytime we took her to the lake, Daddy let me drive. I fell in love with boats and lakes, and I have him to thank for that.

That old boat stayed in the family up until just a few years ago when I sold it to a nice lady with whom I worked. She didn't have much use for a boat, but her husband wanted one desperately.

The dang thing hadn't been in the water in years, and he was dying of cancer. We worked out a “pay me when you can” payment plan, and I delivered the boat, motor, and trailer with a sense of satisfaction that I had finally gotten the old gal out of my yard, and I just knew she had found a nice home.

He died faster than expected. The nice lady tried to give the boat back to me, but I just couldn't take it. I forgot about the payments, and I absolutely have no idea where that old boat is now.

Of course, I coveted a boat with cushioned seats, a steering wheel, and a lever throttle. In 1992, I found the vessel of my dreams; a 20-foot pontoon boat. Bought her right out of the boat show at the mall.

Paid $250 per month until she was mine. She's still mine after all these years.

She's not as flashy as she was back then. Her color has faded. Her seats are torn, and the fiberglass console with its very own steering wheel has cracked and shows its age. Every year I swear I will get the seats recovered, but I end up charging the battery, filling her with fuel, and turning the key to see if she will crank.

This year has been no exception.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but my youngest son and his family were home for a few days toward the beginning of the month. The weather was perfect for a boat ride, and we washed all of the pollen off of the old girl on a Saturday morning, charged the battery, fueled her up, and turned the key.

She fired on the first try; cranked like a charm. Turns out she is the most dependable piece of motorized equipment I own.

Now on any given day, I can set the throttle on about 2,000 rpms, kick back in the sun, and just ride. The definition of contentment. On this day, however, my 5-month-old grandson, completely decked out in his 0 to 36 pound life jacket, is aboard and serving as first mate to his grandpa skipper.

We managed to get a couple of pictures before the sway of the waves and the warmth of the midday sun rocked him to sleep. Gone. Out like a light. For nearly 45 minutes, I drove him around the lake while he slept.

He won't remember a thing; I have a memory I will never forget.


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