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Knee-deep, in a life jacket (10/23/2013)
By Sarah Squires
I am a worrier.

Some of you may recall a column I wrote a few years ago detailing the most wonderful invention my brother-in-law created: safety jumper cables. (If you wanted to, you could search ďBaby you can jump my carĒ at winonapost.com and find it. The deal described at the end is still on.)

These jumper cables are for the worriers. To put it simply, the two ends are divided, with a safety plug-in in the middle, so a person need not worry about connecting the wrong color to the car battery and electrocuting themselves on the side of the road.

Sometimes, Jim, I wish you could invent a safety device for worriers that could handle any situation, some sort of a multi-tool device one could stuff into an oversized purse. Iím fine (now) with jumping the car, but there is a whole world of other things for me to imagine will go wrong.

These new shoes are mighty slippery on the bottom, so Iím considering the likelihood of utter collapse, of face-breaking falls, at every step. I donít think you are really going to stop at that stop sign. Iím convinced the big wake from your speed boat is going to overturn our little fishing vessel, or, in the very least, pitch me into the river.

All you worriers out there know what we do with these situations. We wait at the stop sign to make sure youíre going to stop. We bundle our kids up in winter clothes and remind them five times to watch for cars before they leave, then hunker down in the bushes making sure they do.

We wear life jackets.

Now, I happen to know that for every worrier out there, thereís a fearless person, and some of us are married to him. This makes for good times. Luckily, my fearless husband is also pretty patient, a quality that is clearly imperative for someone who spends a lot of time with me, who steers the boat while I hold on with white-knuckled fingers.

I did not grow up on the river; instead, I grew up in lake country. The Mighty Mississippi can be a bit intimidating before you get to know her, and while I have, I still enjoy a healthy respect for the river. I am not, NOT, willing to boat without a life jacket. And unlike those who like the seat-pad type so they donít look like a dork, I need mine strapped on. Tightly. Before we leave the dock.

I have been asked by more than a few river rats whether I can swim. I can! I am a good swimmer. But my response is always this: I canít swim when Iím knocked unconscious. And that, my friend, is exactly the thing running through my mind in the wake of your speed boat.

I am the product of a long line of professional worriers, and I take pride in knowing that mine is a medium blend of panic. Because of this, I am still able to laugh at myself, still able to occasionally let loose, even if I wonít loosen the circulation-ceasing binds of my life jacket to do it.

A few weeks ago, Chris and I went out on the river with a group of friends. Finally, Chris and I have our own boat, and we could bring more than two people and dual-boat our way through the backwaters. The river was really low, but we werenít weighed down too badly, so we headed for our favorite island to do some picnicking and fishing.

It didnít take long before we started hitting the bottom, but we tried to get past the low spots. Unfortunately, our dry summer got the best of our river plans, and we werenít able to make it out to the island. At one point, our friend Wendy hopped from the second boat and attempted to pull it past the low spot, finding the water was up to her knees.

It was a beautiful day; fall colors were just coming in, river lilies jutted up out of the water, showing just how far the water had dropped. And so, there were pictures, photos taken by people willing to bring their cameras out on the boat (mine would totally fall in), photos promptly loaded onto Facebook pages.

Picture this: Wendy (short by any measure), knee deep in the water, dragging a john boat through the slough. Then me, one hand clutching the side of the boat instinctively, casually tightening my life vest as the boat dragged along on sand.

My brother-in-law is going to have to invent some sort of thin floating foam substance with which to create me a disguised life vest, one I can wear every day, one that wonít betray what a wiener I am when we hit the knee-deep waters and I get a little nervous.

Up next ó†ice fishing! Iíll need a rope for sure. 


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