Boys Canoeing on a River

Character is Forged in Crisis

Stephen Ashton

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

It was a cold morning in late January as the Troop prepared for their adventure on the Ocumlgee River in central Georgia. Gavin had practiced canoeing on the lake and the Troop had done a day trip in warm weather, but he could not help but feel nervous as the canoe slid from the shore and he dipped his paddle into the cold winter water. The canoe was heavier with extra gear for an overnight trip and a new Troop member, Josh, was sitting in the center. Gavin knew today would test his canoeing ability as he encountered a set of rapids. He was glad to have the experience of his Troopmaster, John, in the stern. By 10 AM, six canoes were in the water and the group of 15 began navigating their way to a campsite near Bullard Landing.

Challenge came more quickly than anyone anticipated.  The group had been staying close together and hugging the bank searching for a place to stop for lunch when they approached a sharp bend in the river. The combination of the current and nearby canoes pushed Gavin’s boat toward a log jam on the outside of a turn.  The boys in the boat heard the Troopmaster yell “high side”, which meant they should lean toward the obstruction, however the new boy was nervous and leaned away causing the canoe to capsize and the three of them were plunged into the frigid waters. It was even colder than Josh expected. His world seemed to stop as he hit the water. A sense of panic set in as he gasped for air then sputtered out, “Mr. John, am I going to die?” His Troopmaster reassured him they would be okay and they quickly got the boat to shore. Troop Officers and Patrol Leaders sprang into action and members of his Troop rushed to bring sleeping bags and dry clothes.  It wasn’t long before they had started a fire and warm drinks were served. The plan to canoe to Bullard Landing had been scuttled. As the shivering stopped, Josh began to feeling of guilty for ruining the Troop’s trip.

Soon he would discover his Troop had worked for months to prepare for this situation. The Troop, Officers, and Patrol Leaders had expected these problems. And perhaps, the situation was not as bad as it seemed.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 2 next week!

About the Author

Stephen Ashton