Some People are Better Left Alone

Some People are Better Left Alone

OK, so my retired wife, whom I now refer to as “my future widow” because the likelihood of my dying an unnatural and premature death seems high, given my lack of a frontal lobe, gets this idea in her head in June that a trip to Lake Tenkiller would be fun. (I promise to write shorter sentences from here on.)

The summer break had barely started. My schedule of reclining my weary bones had not yet been fully established when her wanderlust overcame her.

Oh, and did I tell you she wanted to take our three grandkids too? I love them angels, but my “old man” tolerance for noise, especially if it’s sudden and close, is nil! Linda translates their ability to wake the dead as “natural kid behavior.” Well, I can tell you this as fact: Evan, the youngest, has a pitch that kills neighborhood dogs.

We don’t own an SUV or family van. You’ve seen my Fiat. Linda has a Civic. So a trip with five people, three of whom want candy and drinks every 13 miles, is a two-vehicle saga. I took Ethan, the oldest and quietest, in my car.

We had rented SNU’s quite comfortable facilities at the lake, and for another $50 we got the boat, too. A large pontoon boat with a large outboard engine. The problems soon arose when we realized none of us had ever operated a boat.

The university’s list of do’s and don’ts for the property, including the boat, proclaimed this statement: “Do not attempt to start the boat engine without putting it in the water first.” Easy enough, I thought. For the better part of an hour, I pushed and shoved, pounded and slapped, begged and beseeched that engine, trying to “unlock” whatever was holding it in that out-of-water position like grim death. I was sweating as if I’d been pushing that boat uphill through fire and brimstone.

Finally, Linda and Ivy and Evan walked a half-mile to the boat house and asked the veteran Ship Master how to get an outboard engine into water. “Trim it,” he said.“What does that mean?” she said. “Look at the throttle handle,” he said. “What’s a throttle?” she said. Did you know there’s button on the throttle that says “UP” and “DOWN”? It’s electric and causes no sweat at all. It’s really a miracle innovation.

We took a nautical stroll around the lake. That throttle can make that boat go really fast. It was so cool, especially in 127-degree heat. We threw the inflatable water tube behind the boat and pulled the kids until they were exhausted. The water had become choppy (some people call them “wakes”) and it was drowning them.

They were content to swim around the boat. I “dropped anchor” and we watched them jump and splash for a few minutes when another “great idea” struck Linda’s idea-house. She wanted to join them in the water. Linda doesn’t swim all that well by her own admission. Neither one of us is in the best physical shape (unless you’re talking about watching TV). And she had forgotten to bring a swimsuit. Three solid negatives. To normal people.

“That’s OK,” she decided. “I’ll just jump in fully dressed.” (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Let me just say that there wasn’t a lot of floating involved. Within a minute or two she wanted to get out, so the three lithe and strong dolphin-like-creatures showed her how. They didn’t even need a ladder.

But Linda did. The four of us on board turned that boat upside down looking for that ladder. Surely all recreational boats have ladders. Well, this one didn’t. (We found out weeks later that the ladder of recreational boats pulls out from under the deck near the engine, kinda like those U-Haul truck ramps. This revelation was not humorous.)

We pulled poor Linda’s arms over that pontoon until her hands and arms were fully bruised and throbbing. Her life-jacket was getting quite a workout and began to slip up around her throat.

We had this final humiliating idea. “Let’s see if we can pull her out by her feet.” If you’ve never seen this attempted by non-boat-drivers, you can’t believe how hilarious it is. Needless to say, this method was ridiculous in its inception. Even Dr. Neuenschwander, a renowned physicist, would agree. Impossible.

She ended up swimming to the rocky cliffs 100 yards “aft” and I manipulated the boat in reverse close enough that she could climb in with ease. We had a good laugh and a great story to tell our grandchildren one day. (Oh yeah, they were there. Forget that idea.)

But those bruises lasted about two weeks.

[author image=”″ ]Prof. Jim Wilcox, Guest Contributor <br> Prof.  Wilcox has taught at SNU for 35 years and still loves it. Seriously.[/author]