Dallas, Texas, resident Mitch Kuhn, left, and the Houston Herald's Doug Davison enjoy kayaking last Sunday on the Big Piney River upstream from Boiling Springs Resort west of Licking.

So what do you do on Labor Day weekend if you live in the Ozarks?

You go to the lake or river, of course.

And if you’re a nearly 60-year-old man who habitually pushes his body to its limits, you do both.

Such was the case for me last weekend.

It all started when some friends visited – a lady from Cincinnati and a man from Dallas. Visitors at the Davison house – what are the odds?

Things really got rolling when the lady surprised the rest of us by renting a pontoon boat for the day on Lake of the Ozarks.

Accompanied by the always-adventurous Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Gertie (the Permapup), the four of us arrived in the morning where the boat was moored at The Knolls Resort Condominiums in Osage Beach. The man from the rental company who met us there filled us in on things like how to use some of the craft’s controls and nearby places to get fuel.

He also stressed a particular point.

“You’ll find it’s pretty rough on the main lake,” he said.

Truer words were never spoken, but that fact also turned out to be one of the more memorable aspects of the outing. Lake of the Ozarks features about a million coves and inlets where “no wake” zones exist and calm water can easily be found, and we enjoyed some fishing and swimming in one of them.

But out on the “main lake,” there is no regulation of wakes. There was, however, a Labor Day weekend-sized amount of boat traffic consisting of everything from giant yachts, to high speed, high power cigarette boats, 17-foot runabouts, “jet skis” (or more accurately, personal watercraft) and, of course, a bunch of pontoon boats.

That heavy traffic surely made for some roughness – and a few bone-jarring, hair-raising moments.

Before going further, allow me to share something with you.

Back in the days when our kids were younger, our family frequented theme parks. We would ride all the rides, including confounded water-oriented contraptions like those big tire-like objects that go willy-nilly down an artificial river with about a half-dozen people strapped in around the outer rim.

It became well known in my family that those rides were simply a means for dad to get entirely drenched. I kid you not – every time I get into one of those dang things, it seems to come to a complete stop at a waterfall for a while with me on the side that’s directly under the deluge.

This fact is now well known in the family: I will never, under any circumstances, get on a water ride again. But the unfortunate soggy tradition seems to have followed me outside the boundary of theme parks.

As we cruised along in the main lake, we came across a section of very angry water. There were huge (I mean huge) waves and swells all over the place, and our captain at the time did the best job possible of navigating the S.S. Pontoon through them.

I was at the time having fun riding on a padded bench in the bow, and then I saw it. We were headed for “the big one.” I started instinctively backing up and fell off the bench onto my rear right in front of the driver’s station.

I had just enough time to look up and see a massive wall of water headed my direction as it engulfed the whole front portion of the boat. I also had time to look back down just before I heard the deafening crashing sound of hundreds of gallons of water that was under the influence of Earth’s gravitational pull.

Then I was as wet as I would have been if I had simply jumped into the lake. My three boat mates laughed hysterically.

“Of course!” I yelled.

As we kept having fun at the lake, Gertie did her best to handle what was going on around her, and by the end of the day was one tuckered out pup. But as a T-shirt being worn by a man at a fueling dock said, there are “no bad days” at a lake – especially on a pontoon boat. Just sun, water, good food and great fellowship.

The watery weekend continued Sunday, as we took to the Big Piney River in kayaks.

Our float trip began at Boiling Springs Resort, where we were shuttled by an old school bus to a put-in location off of Cantrell Road. For the second straight day, the weather was picture-perfect, and we had a feeling we were in for something good.

Good is an understatement.

Throughout the trip, our boats hit the river’s rocky bottom a few times, and not once did we have to actually climb out and drag them across a spot that was too shallow. The water was crystal clear and moved along at a perfect pace in most places.

And despite the fact it was Labor Day weekend, we saw only about six other boats the whole time. We had apparently timed things well. A Boiling Springs Resort worker said they had “put about 100 people” onto the river before us, so we were behind the crowd.

Good thing we brought our own boats.

“Almost everything we have is out there somewhere,” he said.

As we calmly slipped along beneath the shade of tall trees, one of our friends quoted the Bible. He said the setting was so wonderfully peaceful that “rivers of living water” came to mind (John 7:38).

A bit more than half way through our five-mile float, we pulled over and stopped for lunch at an ideal swimming hole where the bottom of the Big Piney was covered with sand and tiny gravel. It was the perfect place for feet.

We sloshed around – Gertie too, of course – and basically had almost a healing experience. Actually, our backs and legs did feel better, so there was indeed healing going on.

When we reached the beach and boat ramp at Boiling Springs, none of us were worn out and sore. On the contrary, the nature of the float (with the perfect water depth and flow) resulted only in a satisfied state of being.

Add to that the great fellowship and togetherness, and it was a remarkable moment. It was like, “aaahhh.”

Thank God for the exceptional waters of the Ozarks and for two days of bliss upon and inside them. Pretty hard to beat.

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