A fellow NH blogger has been writing about the Ashuelot River, and how he spent his boyhood along its banks. You can see his series here, here, and here. And of course, he got me to thinking about the Tradewater River where I spent part of my childhood. It flows through Dawson Springs, KY where I lived in high school (and when I was home, during college too).

My parents live in a house situated in a bend in the river. They have a strip of land that is bounded on both ends by the river. Route 109 divides it into a big lot and a tiny (and steep) lot, and I spent a lot of time on the banks at either end. This stretch of the Tradewater is downstream from the tiny strip, and upstream from the big lot. Lake Beshear drains into the Tradewater downstream from here too (but upstream from the big lot).

Tradewater near my parent's house

Tradewater near my parent's house, August 2010

We had a 17′ fiberglass canoe, so when we moved in to this place (I was in the ninth grade) we decided we needed a boat dock of some sort on the river. We had an old steel ladder from our triple bunkbed, and since it was now a double-bunk, the ladder was free for other purposes. My brother Steve and I pressed it into service for our dock. There was a tree growing out from the bank – sideways first, and then curving upward. It was easy to stand on the horizontal portion of its trunk, and we figured, “trunk+ladder=boat dock.” So we fastened the ladder to the tree. We accomplished this by driving a pair of 16-penny nails on either side of the ladder’s uprights, and then bending them around so that the two nails clasped the steel posts and held it to the tree. Four nails later, we had our boat dock. We did not use it very much though.

One March (probably in 1978), Steve and I decided to take the canoe out on the river. We headed upstream, as we always did. That way when you get tired and turn around, it’s downstream all the way home. Going downstream first is a Bad Idea, because then when you get tired and turn around, you have to work to get home again. That is still how I do rivers in a canoe.

I don’t remember much about that trip itself, but I vividly remember the take-out. We landed the canoe, and Steve got out to haul it up onto the bank. There was a flat shelf on the bank about two feet wide, and about a foot higher than the water (on that day). Then the bank rose steeply until it gained another six feet of height before flattening out again. That’s where the trail was. Once the bow was on the first shelf, I climbed out. Steve had scrambled up to the next shelf and started hauling on the rope while I pushed on the stern. The keel got up on the break in the bank and Steve gave it a good tug. The whole canoe pivoted around on its center, with the effect that the stern came flying around right at me. As I was balanced precariously on the lower shelf, when the stern made its hasty introduction to me, I lost my footing and fell splash into the river.

Now Kentucky is not a cold place (especially when compared to NH), but it is cold enough that you would not want to swim in a river in March. Yet, that’s exactly what I found myself doing, and fully clothed at that. They say that the cold water will make you take a very deep breath and then not be able to exhale – and I know that that’s true from experience. I quickly swam to the bunkbed ladder and started climbing up. As I was coming up, I noticed that those 16-penny nails were straightening themselves out! In milliseconds, I was climbing ever faster, but not getting any higher. The ladder, meanwhile, was doing the equal and opposite thing – straight to the bottom (where I presume it is still resting). I joined it shortly afterwards.

I found myself fully immersed in the drink again, never having fully regained dry ground in the first place. This time there was no ladder, and the bank was slick with mud. I somehow scrambled up. The house was only two or three hundred yards away. I left Steve at the river to secure the canoe, and I made my way through the pasture to the house post haste for a nice hot shower.

Never has a shower felt so good!

Today after church I was talking to a few friends, when I noticed that I hadn’t seen anyone in my immediate family for several minutes. I thought they must be waiting in the car, so I went downstairs to the lower lot and looked – no one there. Back inside to look around – no one in my family there either. Back upstairs, and still no one! So I went out the front door and saw a fire truck, ambulance, and a police car in the road right in front of the church’s driveway. One of our church members had been in an accident. (No one was seriously injured.)

Beth had seen it as she was on the new climbing dome when it happened. Va was putting things in the car, and she heard it. David was outside at the time too, so he heard it. They were the first on the scene.

The member in the accident was one of our refugees from Africa, and she had her four daughters in the car (two of whom are in my Pathfinder Club). By the time I found out what was going on, they were loading the mother and oldest daughter into an ambulance. Va was carrying the youngest one back into the church, and two other church members were escorting the other girls inside. Their father was called, and he caught a ride with a neighbor post haste. Anyhow, there was lots of confusion and excitement, and they were released from the hospital later in the afternoon.

My plan for today was to take Beth and David on a little paddle trip down the Merrimack. I figured that with just the three of us, it would go much more smoothly than the raft trip did last week. But instead, it did not go smoothly at all! Jonathan took us to the put in, and he agreed to come and get us at the take-out when I called him later.

The first problem was that I forgot my hat. I bought my hat so that I wouldn’t get a sunburn on the top of my otherwise sparsely-covered pate. I hate to put sunscreen up there, but if I don’t, I pay dearly. I had some sunscreen in the car, so I slathered it on.

Then we put the boats in the water (one canoe, one kayak) and off we went. The hatlessness lead to the next problem, and that was that sweat started rolling down into my eyes, carrying the sunscreen into the right one. Man… it burns.

Pretty soon I found it almost impossible to see. It was incredibly painful – far more painful in fact, than any sunburn I have ever experiences (and I’ve had some doozies). Shortly after that, David experienced the same thing. And then we came to some very minor class I rapids. We got down them OK, but I was worried about shooting the rapids while nearly blind.

We shot a second set and again came out OK. But the eyes were just getting worse. David had pulled over to the shore, so I did too. We could hear traffic from route 3, so I decided to see how wide the shoulder was there (it was about a hundred yards away).

I didn’t like what I saw. The riverbank was very steep up, and then the roadway was very steep down, and I couldn’t find any sort of trail. The thought of hauling a canoe and a kayak through that was just unthinkable. So we crossed the river and looked into the situation on the other side. It was much better.

I went back to the boats and grabbed the GPS so I could tell Jonathan where we were. I tried to call, but the signal was dropped. I had zero bars. So I walked a short distance until I had one and tried again. I got his voicemail. So I called Va – dropped the call before I could say “boo.” I tried again and got her voicemail. So I called the house. Jonathan answered, and I was somehow able to tell him where we were, though the signal was so bad, that it was pretty iffy.

Then I went back to the river and David and I hauled the kayak up the bank and out to the road. I left him and Beth there with it while I went after the canoe and paddles.

Jonathan showed up a lot quicker than I thought he would. We loaded the boats up, and he drove us home, eyes still burning.

It has been over three hours since we got home and my eyes are still torturing me! I expect they’ll be OK by morning. I think next time, I’ll bring my hat!

I took David, Beth, and Penny canoeing at Sandogardy Pond again this afternoon. The Pickerel Weed is in full bloom now. Last week there were several individual plants in bloom, but today nearly all were. The bullhead lily, white water lily, and floating heart were all in full bloom as well. I did catch up on my bloom clock logging today too.

Penny decided to jump out of the canoe today – twice. The first time was as we approached the shore so I could look at some flowers growing at the edge of the pond. They look a lot like Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrafolia), but the shape of the flower clusters was not the same. The flowers themselves looked exactly the same though. I’ll go through my field guides in a little while and see if I can figure it out.

After we landed at the beach, Beth took off her outer clothing (she was wearing a swimsuit) and did some wading. Two minutes into that, she realized that she had put her suit on backwards, and was alarmed that her “breasts” were showing. So I escorted her up to the bathroom and she changed.

There was a black Labrador Retriever down at the beach too, and she and Penny pretty much ignored one another (to my delight). This lab spent all her time in the water. She would find a rock buried in sand, dig it out with her front paws, and then go in after it with her head. She picked up several quart-sized rocks and “retrieved” them to the beach. It was pretty cool (if you like simple things like that).

I got up kinda early (for me) again this morning. Last night I smoothed out a pile of dirt hoping that a robin would walk around on it so I could cast its tracks. And one did! Yay! I took some photos and uploaded one of them to The Commons and then inserted it into the Animal Tracking answer book. I still need tracks from a crow, a pigeon (yes, still), an earthworm, and a cow. Then I’ll be able to declare that chapter finished.

I cast the track too, and while we had the plaster out, I helped David with a science experiment. He had to make a “fossil” by pouring some plaster in a milk carton, then embedding three small, Vasaline-coated objects into it. Once that set, he removed the objects, greased up the plaster, and poured more on top of it, making a positive cast. He was well pleased with the results.

After the first round of that, the kids, the dog, and I piled into the car and drove to the Laconia SDA Church. The Pathfinders had been hired to sweep their parking lot. Cheryl and Dirk showed up at 11:00, and we finished by 1:00. We were going to eat out, but then remembered we had a dog with us, so we just drove home.

In the late afternoon, Beth, Penny and I drove down to Sandogardy Pond again and did a little paddling. She swam afterwards for about 30 minutes. I found a few more fireworks cartridges and disposed of them.

When we got home, Beth wanted to have a pretend picnic. She got a blanket from the house, spread it out in the backyard, laid some toys on it, and then invited me to join her. She read me a book (Little Red Riding Hood) while I laid down and closed my eyes for a bit.

Today the Wintergreen bloomed, so I logged that. Looks like the Partridge Berry is about finished. I’m sure I could find one more bloom, but I didn’t see one today. I did find several Monotropa uniflora specimens though.

And now… I’m pretty wiped out!

This week and last week have been slow at church. Most of our members are away at camp meeting, but we always stay behind to keep the doors open in case there are visitors. We first visited the church when we still lived in Va. I had a business trip up here during the summer and several frequent flyer passes, so we all piled into a plane and spent a few days here. The place was quite dead then, and it was today as well (though not quite AS dead).

We had a visitor too, and she was looking for a new place to attend church. Va and Christine Smith spoke to her for a while after the service, and she said she’d be coming back. We definitely have a family-oriented church, and that’s what she was looking for.

Brian and I manned the platform. Beth read Psalm 23 for the Call to Worship, and she was very excited to do that. She had been scheduled to read the scripture the previous week, but since we did not have an organized service (yes, it was a disorganized service), we didn’t have a scripture. Carmella (another young lady) had the today’s scripture. Since we didn’t have a live sermon (we had a DVD), I asked her to choose a scripture herself, and she was happy to do that.

I took David and Beth canoeing today after supper. Penny came along as well. I re-learned a lesson I first learned when I started taking Jonathan and David canoeing, and that’s that the WRONG number of paddles to bring when you have two kids, is two. One works OK (I get that one), and three works even better (one for me and one for each kid). But two is right out. I ended up sitting in the middle of the canoe with Penny and let David paddle stern while Beth kinda sorta paddled bow. David did a good job. He definitely knows how to paddle a canoe.

There was a loon swimming along in the middle of the pond. I snapped several photos, but only one of them is uncrappy enough to post.

Loon on Sandogardy Pond

Loon on Sandogardy Pond

I had David paddle up to it as close as we could, but we were still about 100 feet away when it got nervous and dove beneath the surface.

Afterwards I let Beth swim for a while. I don’t think David went in more than ankle deep, but he did enjoy the swing set they have at the park there. A bunch of people were there having a birthday party for a kid, and as I was loading the canoe on the car, one of the women asked if it would be OK if Beth had some cake. I said “sure!” and Beth seemed to really enjoy the cake (ice cream too).

As she swam, I noticed that there were literally hundreds of little plastic shells leftover from a fireworks display. I guess I picked up three hundred shells. I doubt the revelers even knew that their fireworks were leaving plastic casings behind, so I tried to think charitable thoughts about them.

I found some Water Hemlock at the boat dock. I hadn’t noticed it before which makes me believe that it must not have been in bloom yesterday. I look for that sort of thing. Water Hemlock looks a lot like water carrot, but it is quite poisonous. They’re easy to tell apart though if you know what to look for. Carrot has bracts with three forks on the underside of the bloom. Hemlock has no bracts. There are other poisonous species that do have bracts, but not with three forks.

As it turns out, we did not use all the sparklers last night – there was an other package with 6 more boxes. So when it got dark, Beth and David lit them off. Jonathan was not interested. They were sticking them in the ground and lighting them that way. That’s probably safer since the hands are farther away from the shower of sparks. But that only goes so far. If a kid tries to pluck one out of the ground by the business end after it goes out, it still burns (ask Beth). I put some ice in a ziplock bag for her finger, but it was not a serious burn at all. I know it hurt though (poor thing!) She fell asleep with the ice on her finger still.

I got up kind of early today. Maybe even earlier than I would have on a work day. Va got up a few minutes before me, and when I got downstairs, she told me that Beth was asleep on the couch. Apparently, she had gotten up first, and then crashed on the couch after a little while. As soon as Va let Penny out of the crate, she darted straight into the living room where Beth was. As if to say “Hey! This is unusual!”

Actually, I think all dog barks can be translated into the English word “Hey!” as in “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!”

I took Penny outside for a short walk, kicking the soccer ball for her as I made a lap around the trail. I don’t recall anything notable, except that some of the red slime mold is erupting on the burnt stump.

I went in and made myself an egg sandwich (English muffin, egg, cheese, mayo). Then Beth and I walked down to Sandogardy. I noticed that some small white water lilies were in bloom, so I snapped a picture. I looked it up when I got home and found it to be Nymphoides cordata (Floating Heart). To my surprise, it had no entry in the Bloom Clock, nor in Wikipedia, nor in Wikimedia Commons. So I uploaded my crappy picture.

Then we went home again. At lunch time we decided to pull out all the stops and go to… Wendy’s in Tilton. The main reason for choosing Wendy’s was its proximity to the fireworks store. We blew $12 on some pyrotechnics and then went home.

Va wanted me to get Penny out of the house for a couple of hours so she could mop. So I loaded the canoe on top of the car. Beth and I donned swimsuits, and we drove down to Sandogardy. We paddled all the way around the pond, which I would estimate to be about a one-mile trip (it’s a 41 acre pond).

Beth and Penny manning the bow

Beth and Penny manning the bow

I bought the camera and took more photos of the floating heart and some of the White Water Lily form the other day. I will upload to Wikimedia Commons later.

After we paddled, I let Beth swim for half an hour or so. Then we came home. We had only been gone for 90 minutes, which was not enough time for the floor to get mopped and dry, so we hung out in the yard for another half hour.

I gave Beth a bath at 7:30 and let her put on her day clothes afterwards so she could light some sparklers and watch the other pyrotechnics. Penny seemed to hold no fear whatsoever of the sparklers which really surprised me. But she did NOT like the other fireworks. I only bought three “cannons” and they went up a lot higher than I thought they would too. The first round was strafing some oak leaves during the skyward journey, so I wheeled out the wheelbarrow for round two. the second one was kind of a dud. I guess the wheelbarrow wasn’t quite flat enough, so after the first report, the package tipped over (thankfully) no more fireballs were ejected. I hosed it down, and then leveled the wheelbarrow. The third round went off without a hitch.