Home Opinion And just like that …

And just like that …


I don’t manage downtime very well, and I’ve never been too keen on vacations. But occasionally, my family convinces me to close my laptop for a few days and park myself in front of a campfire. We pitch a tent, make s’mores, and spend some time canoeing or kayaking down some lazy river. So, after months of work with little to no breaks, it was time to hit the campground again.

We had a beautiful day for the kayaking trip this year, bright, sunny, and warm. I was in the front seat of a canoe and a friend had the rear orr, while all around various kayaks and tubers drifted downstream alongside. That area of southern Ohio’s Hocking River isn’t particularly deep, but some parts can be treacherous, and deceptively quiet on the surface with many large rocks and a heavy undertow.

Down the river, we could see what’s best described as a traffic jam opposite a sandbar we were closing in on. A clump of tubers had stopped, and many were out of their boats on the sand yelling at approaching kayakers to avoid a fast-moving section of the river.

A moment later, I could hear why they were so insistent. About 20 yards away, there was someone in the water pleading for help. A woman’s kayak capsized, and she was up to her neck in the heavy current, unable to move. Broadsided by the current, we paddled hard to get as close as we could to her and safely beached the canoe on a sandy bank nearby.

A moment later I was out of the canoe and up to my waist in the turbulent undercurrent as it slammed into my legs, nearly dragging me under as well (thank goodness for all the cycling). When the woman’s kayak overturned, her shorts caught on one of the rocks, where she fought to keep her face clear to breathe.

People get badly injured and even die on these trips because, on the surface, the water looks serene and calm, like a gently flowing stream. Beneath it’s a swirl of eddies and violent undertow. When I finally reached the woman, were both dangerously close to being swept toward yet more dangerous rocks just ahead.

Luckily, my first impulse was to grab her life jacket – yes, you really need to wear one! I caught the loop on the back then linked one arm through the arm across and under the back, which gave me leverage to keep her head above water and prevent her from being taken by the current.

I kept her head up, reassuring her that she would be alright. Just then, a woman from the tubing group waded towards us from the opposite side. Lifting from each side, she helped me drag the victim backward against the current to where the water was only a few inches deep. Several

other boaters came up to help and we lifted her to her feet, shaky but alright. Someone had secured her kayak as well.

Before we went our separate ways, the woman hugged us all and thanked us for our help before getting back in her kayak to finish her trip. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief. Her determination to keep going is a testament to her calm demeanor during the event. Without everyone working together, though, her life might have been changed forever.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been in a crisis like this. I never hesitated to step into the dangerous current because I never even considered anything else. Someone was in trouble, and I could help. It was a relief to see how many others did too.

That day was a vivid reminder there are still good people in the world. What could have been a deadly tragedy instead had a happy ending for all. People risked their own safety to save someone else. It makes me believe that there is hope for humanity after all.

There is no way to know how our day will turn out when we get up in the morning. After all, it was supposed to be a relaxing canoe trip, but, just like that, it became a life-and-death moment.

Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.