The boat that ran away

The problem was obvious – the solution very much in question.

Out there in the middle of the water, my boat was circling slowly, motor running in reverse. On the bank, my Labrador and I stood watching it. Bolt looked guilty and he should have, the whole thing was his fault.

I looked wet, and I should have. When I saw that boat slowly easing away from the bank, I was overcome with the false premise that I could swim faster than I really can. My fingertips touched the end of the rope, trailing in the water, but it hit me then that without solid footing, I, even the accomplished swimmer that I am, was no match for that motor.

So I returned to the shore, where I decided I would take my little cheap flip-phone out of my pocket and call my daughter and have her bring me her kayak. It wouldn’t work! I drained the water out of it as best as I could and it wouldn’t work anyway.

A cell phone that is in the water for only a few minutes ought to work. A boat with the motor idling should not be in reverse gear without me knowing it and a Labrador, told to sit on the bow and hold the boat down should stay there and not jump out, lightening the front end and kicking the boat away from the bank.

You could look at his face and see that he knew everything was his fault. Bolt made excuses, whining about how he couldn’t hear well with the boat running, and he thought when I said, “sit and stay” that I had said “come and play.”

Bolt and I often go down to the upper reaches of a nearby lake and put the boat in there so we can run up the river and fish in solitude. The launching point is just a little ramp of sand and mud, and this time of year, late in the afternoon, there isn’t a soul there. That afternoon I wished there was someone else there, a bank fisherman maybe, someone who was young and could swim good.

There was a time when I could swim to that boat and swing a leg up over the side and climb in. I still feel like I can do that, but I am smart enough (my IQ is way up there in the 50s) to know that my brain don’t always go along with my body. I have fallen out of that boat at least three times. It never was my fault completely. But I never could get back up over the steep-slanted gunwale without swimming it to the bank.

The boat is a 15-year-old War Eagle with a jet motor. No prop. If you have a prop on your motor and you swim out and try to jump on the boat with that motor in gear, you stand to be on the news the day after.

I thought about that. I do not want the local news to carry information of my drowning beside my own boat, found circling in the lake with the motor running. Too many people would enjoy hearing that. I have always wanted to go out in some heroic manner, like rescuing a bus load of kids somewhere, or in a shoot-out with a half dozen muslims.

Bolt sat there beside me, and his countenance changed from extreme guiltiness to being deep in thought. I knew exactly what he was thinking.

“No way,” I told him, “I ain’t swimmin’ out there to be dragged around by that boat.”

The problem was compounded by knowing my only life jacket was in the boat right next to the coffee can with my lures in it.

Running back to my pickup, Bolt pointed to the bed in excitement. I looked in there and saw an empty two-gallon plastic gas can. I instantly knew what he was thinking. From there on it was easy. I tucked that buoyant gas can under my stomach and began to swim. Immediately I realized I would have to go back and get the lid for that gas can! Swimming back to shore, I dumped the water out of the plastic can then thanked Bolt for bringing me the lid. I set out again and it worked great. I just relaxed out there near the circling boat, waited until the throttle side slipped past, and reached over the side and turned off the key. Bolt was right there with me, ready to rescue me if I started to tire. I just wish somebody loved me like that dog does. Someone who would stay in the boat when I tell them to!

With powerful strokes I learned in my youth, pretending I was a Navy Seal, I pulled the old War Eagle back to the shore and we eased upriver to a favorite spot, where the flowing water was muddy from the heavy rain a night before. We didn’t catch a fish.

But we enjoyed the quiet, cool evening, Bolt and I.

Things always seem cooler when you are wet. I patted his head and scratched his ears and told him that fall was closer than it had been all year as witnessed the shortening days and yellowing leaves. Ducks will be heading south soon, and I will never tire of seeing them come. I will never tire of seeing the leaves begin to fall and I will never tire of the smell of the earth on the morning of the first frost. And I will never, ever, ever, get out of my boat with the motor running, ever again. And by the way, if you have my cell phone number, forget it. The dang thing still don’t work! That’s modern technology for you.

And now for something serious. For the last three columns in the 35 newspapers I write for I have covered:

1. Programs which can provide good upland bird hunting in south central Missouri on Public Land that thousands of hunters can take part in.

2. Projects that can change the degradation of Ozark Rivers for a minimum of work and expense,

3. A solid idea for saving our big trees and mature forests on MDC-managed land which gives that department the same amount of money they would have by selling them to logging companies.

The columns have been my assessment of real situations which are a continuing problem, if you believe in conservation at all. Recently the largest of the newspapers which use my column refused to print it, the editor calling it, “a rant.” I want everyone to read that “rant.”

Please go to my website,, and read those few paragraphs, referred to as a rant by that editor, who doesn’t have the slightest awareness of what I was writing about. See if there is even one thing about it that isn’t a feasible answer to major problems which degrade the most valuable resources the Ozarks has.

When a writer criticizes what is happening, and the editor omits it because that editor doesn’t agree, that is not a free press. No writer should have to write only what an editor agrees with. But when someone writes about solid solutions that can make everyone come out ahead, and an editor will not allow it to be printed, you might wonder why. A fear of what power? In Missouri, there is no higher power than the Missouri Department of Conservation when it comes to our wildlife, our timber and our rivers. If laws are being broken there, if there is corruption existing can be so easily seen and has been documented again and again, why are they immune to scrutiny by the press?

I feel that the Missouri people are being denied the truth, and that conservation measures are indeed important to us all. Journalism shouldn’t be about denying the truth. There’s more than one side and that other side needs to be heard too. Please read what is referred to as a “rant,” and judge for yourself. Then, as a reader of this column, just drop me a letter and tell me, should I stop writing about conservation problems which have sound solutions, and should I refrain from criticizing the MDC?

I will go with your recommendation.

Address: Box 22, Bolivar, Mo., 65613 or

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