In later life I saw a picture of my pregnant mother standing in a boat in Urbanna Creek which is just off the Rappahannock River. It then flashed into my mind how long my love affair had been with the water. Entering the outside world a few months later the journey continued. This was in 1948, since then the excitement has never diminished. Tucked away in my mind are many thousands of adventures on the water of which I now will share one.
In 1950 my father bought a new seven and one half horsepower Evinrude outboard. It was a tremendous improvement over the 1929 Indian outboard it replaced. Mounted on a small skiff the Evinrude’s sound when mixed with the lap of the waves and the whisper of the wind were music to my young ears. Several years later my father started to let me man the tiller. Dad would start the motor and switch places with me so I could pilot the little craft. His words of instruction on safe and correct operation were captured and his quiet comments pointing out the improper operation other adult boaters sometimes displayed set my judgment ability in order. Quickly the rules of proper boating were learned. These lessons remain today. As time passed my often repeated question to Dad was when could I start using the boat alone. His patiently repeated answer was the same. “I know you know how to operate the boat as well as any grownup, but you are not big enough to start the motor by yourself and if it quits in the river you’ll be stuck.” I had tried to pull the rope before, but did not have the strength. He assured me one day I would be big enough and he would let me go. Careful observation of Dad starting the motor had disclosed the sweet spot settings of the choke and throttle. After one of our outings, Dad went up to the cottage and I remained in the little boat just looking at a large blue crab clinging to a pier pilling. I finished studying the crab and went to the stern of the boat. The beautiful blue and silver Evinrude glistened in the sun. The answer came to me and I sat on the rear seat to try. Placing each foot on the transom on either side of the motor provided the bracing I had needed. I grasped the rope handle and pulled with the quick short motion as Dad always did and the motor turned over rapidly. Controlling my smile I walked to the cottage and announced to Dad I was ready. He looked doubtful as we walked to the pier. I have heard of a single person lifting an overturned car off of a pinned victim and now know the motivation of this strength. As I entered the boat my mind raced with the required sequences of throttle, choke, foot position, rope grasp, etc. As the rope was finally pulled the wonderful sound of combustion entered my ears and Dad smiled as he said “be careful out there”. That summer ended much too soon, as all do and I entered the first grade. I still feel the same way today each time I push off from the pier as I did back then. I wonder if my granddaughter now riding with me will feel the same.
B. Reed Anderson
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