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June 9, 2006

I Did Not Drown Today

Filed under: General — Michael @ 14:56

I’d have drowned this morning if I had not known how to swim.

That’s a silly thing to say, of course, because anyone who does not know how to swim runs the risk of drowning. I used to wonder how non-swimmers, except for those on sinking boats, ever drowned. But now I think I understand.

Kaelyn and I took dogs out early this morning so that we can go to Rachel’s birthday party later this evening. It was a good morning where we hiked: cool weather, lots of bunnies wanting to play; even Reggie had moments of excited running. We were a little past the half-way point of the hike when things started to break down. (For the easily-worried, I have to say that everything turns out well at the end of this.) The three boys had been out of sight for more than a few seconds when I decided that I ought to listen up for where they might be. When we heard crashing brush and barking on the far side of the nearby dry stream, we knew that there might be coyote problems.

Both Kaelyn and I ran across the rocky streambed and into to the overgrown area from which the barking was coming. Linus was the first to show up in the small sandy clearing among the low branches and deadwood. He looked well, so I leashed him up and took him with me, rushing into the branches to find the next clearing and the other two dogs. Kaelyn and I met up, and I handed Linus to her as Dekker was coming into view. Once she had those two in hand, we put together our best guess as to where Bravo’s noise was coming from, and I headed in that general direction.

I did not make it far before I came upon a wall of green reeds growing up to twice my height from a shallow pool of standing water. Still hearing barking from the other side of the reed-wall, I decided to wade across the pool. It took only a couple of steps, however, to realize that the pool came up nearly to my waist. Kaelyn, at the water’s edge behind me, suggested that I go to a spot of high ground on which a good-sized tree was growing, so I climbed up there and around the tree’s low branches to its other side.

On the other side, I just ran into more reeds and pool, but I still heard barking, so I pulled my phone out of my wet pocket and strode with urgency into the pool. Sure enough, the water was up to my waist again, but I figured that my shorts were already wet, so I might as well keep going. Pushing through reeds and just having lost sight of the tree’s high ground, my third step did not come down on anything solid. I dropped immediately to a depth that floated my hat. When I came up, I saw that the edge of the reeds was just ahead of me, so I swam a few strokes towards the daylight that I could make out ahead. This is when I though to myself, “If I could not swim, I would probably drown here now.” With disorienting reeds, dead-twig branches from surrounding trees, algae sliming onto me (I hadn’t mentioned the algae, had I?), the sudden drop, heavier-by-the-minute hiking boots, and anxiety for a dog in distress, I realized how deadly this could be for a non-swimmer. Kaelyn would not have been able to help because she had no idea what happened after I went to the other side of the tree; she heard nothing of my spill.

But… she did see Bravo coming back to her, and she shouted to me through all of the obstructions that she had him with her. I shouted back that she should not try to bring the dogs the way I went and that I would meet her on the other side of the water.

I swam a few yards further at an easy pace and then was able to put feet on the slippery bottom with the water up only to my elbows. I waded ten more yards to the other side and then climbed out with algae hanging all over me– my “monster rising from the swamp” impression. I got to my truck, toweled off, and then walked to meet Kaelyn, who came around the long, dry way to meet me. It was clear, looking at Bravo, that he would have drowned today too if he did not know how to swim: he was as soaked as I was. The only coyote damage was a little nip on his backside.

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