My son was drowning and I was wading through molasses. Really it was only chest deep river water, but my feet might as well have been glued to the streambed. I couldn’t reach him.
The water was over his head and he couldn’t keep above the surface. And I couldn’t reach him.
Today was day two of our mini-three day outing with the boy scouts. My two twelve year old sons were on this trip.
At the beginning, the river is wide and slow. We passed and were passed by kids in flipflops, college guys in swimsuits, girls in bikinis, dads with babies strapped to their chests. But, the farther up the canyon we got, the narrower and swifter the water became.
I’ve been involved in several startups in my life. The first was watching my mother start a CPA firm. She went back to school as a married mother of three, and then started her CPA business in our living room. Starting a business is easy. Keeping it alive is hard. There were a lot of lean years. Eventually, she grew the business. She hired staff. She rented, and then bought a building. BLISS CPA grew because she put in lots of long hours to make it work. Eventually she retired and sold it to my brother. Today, Bliss & Skeen CPA is still operating in the same small city I grew up in.
I helped launch a company called RESMARK. We made reservation software for the rafting industry. I ran it for two years until we released our first version. As company president, I earned the smallest salary of anyone on the staff. My job was to hire the best programmers I could afford and drive the schedule. Today, if you scheduled a rafting trip down the Colorado, or the Arkansas or the Deleware rivers, there is a good chance you may be using the software we wrote.
My friend Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary fame just celebrated 15 years of uninterrupted daily updates to his award winning comic. He went from not being able to draw very well to having an entire business devoted to his intellectual property.
What’s this have to do with rafting?
Just that the river was easy when we started. Everyone was hiking up. But, eventually it got more difficult. Many of the river walkers turned back. We pushed on.
Starting out the river was between ankle and knee deep. An hour up the canyon and we were swimming sections to get across. The canyon walls soared hundreds of feet straight up, and at times it was a scant 8 feet across.
Continuing even farther, we got to places that became increasingly more challenging, scrambling over waterfalls and at times climbing up the canyon wall itself, until we reached a section where the only way through was a narrow section of river that was about 20 feet long. The water, while calm, was deep and very cold.
The scoutleader went first. With him at one end, and the another leader at the other end, my role, as it had been all day was sweeper. I was the caboose. Most of the boys swam successfully, if a bit cold from one leader to the other. Until it was my son’s turn. He’s a good swimmer for a 12 year old. But, the water was a shock. Half way through he started to flounder. The first time his head went under we weren’t too concerned. But, he came up sputtering water and crying for help. He sank a second time as we struggled toward him through the water. As he kicked his way to the surface a third time, the scoutmaster extended a hiking pole; a literal lifeline.
The only casualty were his glasses.
As a Dad going on a campout with your children, my wife had only one requirement: Bring them all back. Now that my son was safe, I had fulfilled the letter of the law, but if she had to go buy him new glasses, I’m pretty sure she would see that as a violation of the spirit of it.
The scoutmaster was the first to dive for them.
This water really is cold.
He forced his was down to the bottom three times before the cold drove him from the water. Next up was the assistant scoutmaster. I started shedding some of my gear in preparation for my turn. We figured we each had three dives before the threat of hypothermia would force us to stop. Apparently the river gods were on our side. On his second attempt, the assistant scoutmaster emerged with glasses in hand.
Major crisis and minor crisis averted. We all breathed a sigh of reflief.
And then we heard the peal of thunder.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved