Rain at camp is both a blessing and a curse; it brings a sense of cleanliness to everything, but it also causes additional work for the staff. The trees, grass, trails, and buildings benefit from nature's bath. Camp seemed to shine that next morning as the staff arose to clear blue skies and only residual moisture on the ground and tents.
However, the rainwater had collected in the various boats, and the lifeguards would have to spend extra time to bail out the paddleboats, sailboats, and powerboats. Some of the smaller craft, such as the funyaks (heavy-duty plastic kayaks), and the canoes, could be turned over and allowed to drain out and drip dry.
The heavy rain also wreaked havoc in the horse corrals. Low areas that had been filled in just a few days prior were partially washed out and needed to be filled and compacted again. This time, however, with the thirty-one horses on site, the task would be more difficult and time consuming.
The equestrian staff and the waterfront staff barely had time to run to breakfast and then return to their respective areas of camp to perform their tasks.
The waterfront staff had finished emptying and drying the boats by the time the lunch bell rang. After going to their tent and changing into dry clothes, they headed up in a pack towards the dining hall.
Scooter tried walking next to Pax so that they could go over the last minute preparations for the scheduled boating activities that would take place after lunch. Indy had a different idea. The large black dog continued to squeeze between the two women and push Pax away from Scooter.
"Indy," Scooter stopped in her tracks, "knock it off, girl. I'm trying to work here and you herding Pax into the lake isn't helping matters at all." Indy cocked her head and wagged her stump tail, but remained between Scooter and Pax.
"Pax, let's chat at lunch. I think a certain stubborn dog wants my attention right now."
Pax laughed "You are so easy, Scoot. Man, next time I want your attention, I'll just push you into the water." Scooter smiled and broke off from the group with a happy big dog in tow.
She grabbed a small branch that had fallen from a tree, broke off a one-foot length, and tossed it across the lawn. Indy didn't have to be told twice that it was time to play as she immediately raced to fetch the stick.
They played for over fifteen minutes, the dog never tiring of chasing the piece of wood, and returning it for praise and affection. "You're a good girl, yes you are." Scooter ruffled the hair that covered Indy's eyes as she confided in the dog.
"How come I miss her?" Indy had no idea who her was, so she simply licked Scooter's face in response. "It's only been since last night, but I already miss Shadow." She sighed, realizing that the dog did not have the answers to her rhetorical questions.
Guess that's why they're called rhetorical.
During lunch, Scooter overheard Jojo talking about taking lunch up to the barn area.
As casually as she could, Scooter strolled up to the kitchen window and addressed the cook. "You know, Jo, if you're too busy, I could take the food up to the equestrian staff."
"That's okay, Scoot, we'll make time."
"No, really, it's not a problem at all."
What is she up to?
"You've got boating scheduled next; I'm sure Pax would appreciate you being at the waterfront instead of the barn."
"Well, I could leave now and go up there. I'll be back in time for the boating class." I can't believe I'm practically begging the cook to let me do her work. Okay, so it's not exactly a hardship. I mean, Shadow will probably be there, and I'll probably get to say a quick 'Hi', and then she will smile and say 'Hi' back, and...
"I've called your name three times now." Jojo stood with her hands on her hips, but a smile tugged at her lips as she realized that Scooter's body may have been present in the dining room, but her mind was far, far away. Like at the barn area? Hmmm, maybe Scoot is finally reaching out to a new friend. Good for her!
Scooter had the good grace to look sincerely apologetic. "Sorry, Jo. What were you going to say?"
"I was going to say you'd better get a move on it if you're going to make it up to the barn area and back in time for training."
Yes! Scooter nearly pumped her fist in the excitement. "No problem, Jo. I'm ready to go now."
So, with the ATV loaded with sandwiches, chips, soft drinks and cookies, Scooter drove up to the. The sight of Shadow, with her hair loosely pulled back as she shoveled dirt into a small trench, brought a smile to Scooter's face.
The wranglers turned around when they heard the ATV pull up. "Yay, you brought food." Pony was the first to approach as Scooter stepped down from the vehicle.
"Just seeing me isn't enough?" Scooter teased the riding director.
"It is for me." The silky voice cut through the women's bantering.
"You are filthy, Shadow." Scooter laughed as she reached up to Shadow's face and wiped at the dirt that was firmly entrenched on her skin.
"Well, I don't get to spend all of my time in the nice, clean lake water." Shadow's voice and expression didn't betray her surprise at the sudden touch.
"Like you would even step foot in the lake if you didn't have to. I bet you're not even planning on coming to the boating instruction today."
"Actually, though it breaks my heart, we really do have too much work to do up here, so I will have to miss this afternoon."
Scooter did her best to hide her disappointment. "Ok, I understand. But you are not getting out of the canoe class and Tippy Test."
To Shadow's chagrin, Scooter was right. That Friday morning the tall brunette stood on the lawn with the rest of the staff. She had been sized for a lifejacket and for a canoe paddle, which she now held like a weapon in her hands. Well, at least it's a sunny day. Her thoughts impersonated a Klingon warrior's accent. It's a good day to drown.
Pax got the group's attention with a quick blast of her whistle. Shadow set the canoe paddle's tip down on the grass and waited for the instructor to begin speaking.
"Thanks for quieting down so quickly. We have a lot to cover, so let's get going. The first thing I want to review is the parts of the paddle. This is the most important tool you have when canoeing. Everyone should have been sized for the correct length. The longer your arms, the longer your paddle."
Shadow looked around at the other staff and their paddles. She was inordinately pleased to realize that she had one of the longest.
"First thing you should know about your paddle is that you should never set the tip down on the ground." Shadow immediately pulled hers away from the lawn. "The tip can break, so it is better to put it on your foot to protect it. And make sure you don't lean on it." Shadow gently set the tip of the paddle on her foot.
Pony watched with amusement as she observed Shadow following Pax's instructions. She's gonna have a hard time with the Tippy Test. I hope they'll let me be in her boat.
Pax continued her lecture. "Alright, I'm going to teach you the same way that we teach your campers. I'll go over the terminology and nicknames that we will use with the girls. So, starting at the top of the paddle is Greta Grip. That's the plastic T shaped part that you hang onto with one hand. Below that is Shelia Shaft. That's the long narrow part that goes towards the blade. Right before the blade is Thelma Throat. You will hold onto the paddle with your other hand on the throat area. The big, wide part is Betty Blade. You'll notice that is it slightly spooned shape. That helps to move through the water more efficiently. Lastly, the bottom of the blade is called Tina Tip."
Shadow mentally reviewed the different parts of her paddle. Grip, throat, nope...Sheila Shaft, then the throat, blade and tip. Got it.
Over the next half hour, Pax ran them through different canoe strokes and Shadow soaked the information up as if her life depended on it. J stroke to go forward, C stroke to adjust direction. She made smooth clean strokes in the air.
Hey, this isn't so hard.
Pax called for the staff to leave their paddles on the upper lawn and to gather close to the left boat dock. A large metal canoe sat on the lawn by the dock. "I now turn the time over to our illustrious waterfront director."
Scooter stepped near the canoe, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, a navy blue hooded sweatshirt partially zipped up over her red bathing suit. Her yellow nylon shorts peeked out of the bottom of the oversized sweatshirt.
Somebody likes primary colors today. Shadow noticed the contrast of Scooter's bright clothing with her own, more subdued outfit; a pair of faded blue jean shorts, white ribbed tank top and a brand new, never worn, black swimming suit.
The waterfront director began her speech about the canoe, and Shadow found herself focusing on the information. "This is a canoe." The gentle voice carried over the crowd. A canoe, got it. Shadow was happy she at least grasped the basics.
"The back of the boat is called the stern, the front is the bow. When you are sitting facing forward, your left side is called port, your right side is starboard. It's easy to remember because the words 'left' and 'port' both have four letters in them."
Scooter continued to identify and review the different parts of the canoe until she felt that the staff members were fairly familiar with the names. It was vital that they knew the ins and outs of the canoes so that the counselors could help their campers learn and remember the information. But, just as importantly, all the staff needed to be at ease for their impending canoe camping trip across the bay.
"This," Scooter held up a bright orange lifejacket. "Is a Personal Floatation Device, also called a PFD. You never go into any boat without one of these one babies on. It's job is to keep you afloat should you ever find yourself out of the boat and in the water."
"Alright, now the fun really begins." Her green eyes twinkled as she spoke. "Your canoe is designed to keep you out of the water, but occasionally things happen, especially with campers. Your canoe will stay afloat, even if it is overturned. And when it is upside down, it creates a pocket for air, so even if you do flip and get caught underneath your canoe, you will be able to breath."
Shadow was attacked by a sudden case of the nerves.
Flip? Underneath the canoe? To be underneath the canoe means I have to be in the water. No way, no way in Hell, am I doing that.
The words 'Tippy Test' brought her back to reality as she put two and two together to realize at last what a Tippy Test was.
"What we're going to do, is have you come three at a time to the dock. Put on your life preserver, then we'll help you get into the boat. One of the staff on the docks will hold onto a rope connected to your boat, and I'll push you away from the docks. Then, all three of you will work together to rock the boat until it flips over. Once you are flipped, I want you to dive under and come up inside your flipped canoe. Sing a song while you're under there, then you'll come back outside, and work together to flip the canoe back over. It'll be full of water, but it'll still float. So, get back inside and with your hands paddle the boat back to the dock. That's it. Once your group is done with the Tippy Test, you're on break till dinner."
Scooter pulled her clipboard out of her backpack and reviewed the groups that she and Pax had put together. "Okay, Lemme, Koko and Doodle, you three are up first."
The first group successfully completed the Tippy Test, as did the next three. Shadow heard her name called along with Copper's. I thought she said there were three people to a canoe.
As she approached the dock, Shadow was sure that her knees were going to fail her. Scooter handed her a PFD, which Shadow took and stared at as if she had never seen one before.
"Oh, that's right, you weren't at the boating class earlier this week. Give me a second and I'll help you with your life preserver."
As Copper passed by the waterfront director, Scooter handed her a PFD, which Copper took and put on. Once Copper was ready, Scooter focused her attention to the nervous barn manager.
"Here, slide your arms into these." She pointed to the armholes. "It's gonna be okay, Shadow. You're not going to sink, I promise. Now clip this in front and I'll pull it tight." Scooter pulled on the straps until they were snug around Shadow. "I'm going to be right there with you, so stick with me." She smiled at the nervous wrangler.
"But, you'll be guarding from the dock."
"No." Scooter removed her sweatshirt and shorts and placed a PFD securely around her torso. "I'm going to be in the boat with you. Pax will guard us. Come on, Hero, let's do this together."
Together, I like the sound of that. The thought crossed both of their minds.
The three women kneeled on the dock next to where the canoe was tied. Scooter and Shadow held the canoe steady as Copper entered the vessel and crawled to the bow. Once she was seated, Copper held the boat against the dock while Scooter entered and sat in the middle, followed by Shadow who took a seat in the stern.
The canoe was pushed away from the dock until it was 15 feet from the structure. Pax smiled at the group and instructed them to toss their paddles towards her.
Ok, Shadow, this is it. This is the big one. You're going in and you're going down. Shadow took one last look at the world around her. She noticed the calmness of the lake, with the sunlight sparking off the water. She heard the birds chirping and the gulls cawing. The buzz of the insects and the powerboats were etched into her memory. She prepared herself for the inevitable outcome; then took a final cleansing breath.
Scooter looked behind her at Shadow, giving her a quick smile and a "thumbs up".
I would have like the chance to get to know you better, Scooter.
The sudden violent rocking of the boat got Shadow's attention.
Ok, hold on, this is it. Shit.
The splash was enormous as the canoe flipped over and bodies entered the water. Shadow felt herself go beneath the surface as she plugged her nose, held her breath, and waited for the darkness to follow.
Within a second, Shadow shot up from the water's surface, the PFD having done its job as a floatation device. Scooter grabbed Shadow's PFD and held tightly to her.
"Breathe, Shadow", she ordered the wrangler, who was still holding her nose and her breath. "I've got ya. You're above the water now."
Shadow gasped for air as if she had been down in the water for a minute instead of mere seconds. Shadow realized Scooter was hanging onto her life jacket and that she was now safely above the water's surface.
"Come on, Hero, we have to finish this test. We need to go underwater again and then we'll come right back up. It'll be less than five seconds, okay?"
Shadow nodded her understanding. She took a deep breath of air, plugged her nose, and felt herself be pulled underwater by Scooter. One one-hundred, two one-hundred, three one-hundred. The three came to the surface beneath the overturned canoe.
"Now sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat with us, Shadow." Copper and Scooter broke into a rousing, off-key version of the song. Shadow softly joined in.
They could hear Pax's muffled voice above them. "Okay, you guys, come on out."
"You ready to go back under for a couple of seconds?"
Shadow nodded her head and closed her eyes as she allowed the lifeguard to guide her body back to the surface, free of the canoe.
"Shadow, open your eyes and look at me." Once she had the wrangler's attention, she continued. "This life jacket you're wearing", she softly patted the orange vest for emphasis, "is going to keep you above the water, even when I let go of you, okay? I'm going to stay right next to you, but I am going to let go of you and you will just float. Don't struggle, just relax, I'm right here with you." She let go of the wrangler's PFD and allowed Shadow to float on her own.
"Don't leave me, okay?"
Confident green eyes met her blue ones, as Scooter whispered "Never."
Copper swam over to her fellow capsized canoers. "I'll get on the other side, then we'll all reach over the canoe and take each others hands." She quickly swam around the capsized metal boat and called out over the keel, "Okay, ready when you are."
Scooter and Shadow both reached up to link hands with Copper and the threesome managed to do the self-rescue maneuver to Pax's satisfaction.
"Okay, last step." The lifeguard called to the trio. "Now, flip your canoe back over, get into it and use your arms to paddle back to shore."
With concerted effort, Scooter, Shadow, and Copper flipped the canoe upright and crawled in. They paddled back to shore, where other staff waited in knee-deep water to help. Indy stood on the bank barking her encouragement.
Once back on land, they grabbed their abandoned paddles and walked to the boathouse. After disposing of the paddles and PFDs, they headed back towards their backpacks on the lawn. Indy bounded over to them, licking Scooter's hands and enjoying the affection the blond was giving to her.
But after just a few moments, the dog turned her attention to Shadow. She nuzzled the tall woman's legs and heeled without any commands from the wrangler.
Once they reached their gear, Copper grabbed her backpack and headed to the directors' office. Scooter, Shadow, and Indy sat on the lawn, the dog leaning against the wrangler's arm.
"You did well today, ya know?" Scooter placed her hand on Shadow's forearm to emphasize her sincerity.
"I was an idiot." Shadow hung her head, which Indy immediately licked.
"Well, what you did took bravery. I'm proud of you."
They sat silently, side by side, for over fifteen minutes. The sun shone down, the breeze softly blew, the lake's waves gently lapped the shore of the camp, a motorboat could be heard in the distance, and another rendition of Row Your Boat came from beneath a capsized canoe.
Shadow was the first to break the comfortable silence as she leaned over, letting her body gently nudge Scooter's. "Thanks, Friend."
A small smile formed on the lifeguard's lips. Her eyes were closed as she softly replied, "Anytime, Hero".
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