By Don Mueggenborg
Sauk Valley Race on the Rock River a few years ago. The water was up and the current was flowing rapidly.
My partner Tom and I looked over the competition. We might beat some of them, some of them might beat us. That is part of the fun of racing.
Then we spotted my friend Ed. He has been my nemesis for years (except when we are paddling together, then he still finishes ahead of me because he paddles in the bow). Been trying to beat him for years. He is a couple months older than me and has a better looking beard which makes me jealous.
Ed would be paddling with Linda. This should be a good race. Linda was probably the best woman paddler in Illinois at the time. I forgot about the other boats in the race – this could be fun.
Deep water – should be an advantage for us. Tom weighed about a quarter of a ton – well not quite that much, but he was big and strong. Ed was a lightweight and Linda probably never saw the 100 mark on a scale.
The Rock had a series of curves and bends just after the start line. The advantage of deep water vanished as Ed and Linda were able to cut the corners. If we followed, we were no longer in deep water and they had the advantage. If we stayed in the deep water, we were traveling further and they had they advantage.
First third of the race, they were out ahead of us – minute or maybe more. Next third of the race, we were staying about the same distance behind them.
Deeper water – we started to gain. I called a “hut.”
As I threw the paddle from one hand to the other, the wind caught it – or I just plain missed it. Paddle went flying — DRAT (or words to that effect).
From my expletive – Tom knew what happened. “You want to get it?”
“No!” I yelled. “Someone behind us will get it.” I reached for the spare paddle. We were gaining. We could get them! Closer, closer. We were on their wake!
Around the island and upstream about a block to the finish line. Our bow was past their stern. Couple hundred yards to go. We were on the inside, slightly less current. We were pushing as hard as we could – but so were they.
They cut over to the other shore as we stayed along the island. We were lucky. We inched ahead and sprinted as hard as we could.
We had braggin’ rights for the week – by a canoe length at most. (Were we the fastest boat on the river – probably not. Did we win our class – don’t remember. Not that important.)
Now – as each boat behind us finished – “Did you get my paddle?” “Did you get my paddle?”
Black paddle – dark water – wide river.
I just threw away $250 (cost of the paddle).
WAS IT WORTH IT TO BEAT ED? YES!!!
Epilogue – Ray spotted the paddle floating down past us – jumped into the water to give it CPR – Canoe Paddle Rescue. Ed took the paddle home with him and returned it to me the next week.
Embossed on the paddle were my name and address. Good sportsmanship, or was he rubbing it in that I was a clod – whatever – I appreciated it. Thanks Ed.