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A NEAR-DROWNING EXPERIENCE
SOMETHING SCARIER THAN THIS SPOOKY SEASON
A s Halloween rolls around and all the kids in town put together the most ghoulish get-up they can muster, advertisements harp on the“spookiness” of the season. As a fan of Stephen King and a former haunted-house employee myself, I’m down for all of that, but let’s be honest: The real frights out there aren’t ghosts, dancing skeletons, or murderous
unbelievably strong, icy-cold water. My dad somehow managed to get us between two of the chunky offshoots from the branch, and fueled, I’m sure, by that dad-strength that only ever strikes in times of crisis, he hoisted us up one by one onto it. Honestly, I was pretty certain I would die there, swept under the writhing water, never to be seen again. Scott was even more sure of this eventuality, howling, “We’re gonna die! We’re gonna die!”until we were safely ashore.
supernatural clowns. The terrifying things are a lot more corporeal — those slow-motion, life-or-death moments that everyone faces at some point during their time on Earth, when you’re not sure whether you’ll survive another minute or shuffle off this mortal coil.
In the end, we all made it back onto land, intact and relatively unharmed. My dad lost his fancy camera
equipment, and we were all soaked to the bone, but we were alive. The most amazing thing was Donna’s beehive hairdo, somehow as neat as ever, without a single drop of water on it.
As a kid who loved being outside — and especially being in the water — I’ve had more than one near-
drowning experience. One occurred while I was growing up in Joplin, Missouri, probably when I was only 9 or 10 years old. The leader of my Cub Scout troop decided that we’d take a nice canoe trip down Shoal Creek — just a little trek, with parent chaperones in tow. Unfortunately for us, for a few days before we shoved off, the constant rains had turned it from a babbling creek into a bona fide raging river.
After another canoe came by and told the rest of the camp up ahead to come off-road and pick us up in a truck, we discovered that of the 18 canoes, 17 had been swamped. So, all in all, not the most successful Cub Scout trip — though, in those days, we just shrugged it off with a“stuff happens!”
One thing I can say, though: It’s a good thing my dad had come along. He always used to trek alongside me during Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, on all kinds of adventures. Near-fatal canoe trips, 20-something-mile hikes — you name it, he was there. When it came time for my own kids to join the Scouts and venture into the unknown, I passed along that legacy, accompanying them on as many outings as I could, right until it came time for them to strike out on their own. Thankfully, I can recall no times when we almost died.
Still, we pressed on. In our boat was my dad, my good buddy Scott Harrison, and his mother Donna. Despite the elevated, rushing water, we were doing just fine, until we were almost at the end of the trek, about 5–10 miles down the creek. We turned a corner and suddenly beheld a massive tree limb barring nearly the entirety of our course. In a feeble attempt to negotiate our way around the thing, we slammed right into a branch, and before we knew it, the canoe turned sideways, flipped, and we were underwater.
I’m fine with that. Leave the scary moments for the late-night Halloween horror movie marathons, and I’ll steer clear of any massive, gushing rivers.
Luckily, as the canoe got sucked under, each of us snatched a piece of the tree. In a scene straight out of a movie, we hung on for dear life, practically in shock from the
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