The following story is a reprint from Robert’s humor column published in Ohio Valley Outdoors magazine. The fictitious character, Frank Brite, has the knack for getting himself into a bind.
Frank kicked the canoe several times as if he was trying to wake it up. It was late spring and he was anxious to get to his favorite crappie hotspots on the local state lake. Not crazy about simply grabbing the side of the canoe resting behind the garage and rolling it over, because of what he may find taking up residence under it. He sighed deeply and reached down and quickly grabbed the canoe and lifted it with one motion. When he had it chest high, a shed snake skin floated out from under like a miniature, slender kite. The skin landed on Frank’s arm. He had run twenty feet before he heard the canoe hit the ground behind him. Standing there quivering, cussing the skin and the canoe, he heard his neighbor yell his name. Frank turned and waved as if nothing happened. “Going fishing today Frank?” asked the neighbor. “Yeah maybe. Wanna go?” “Not today Frank, but thanks. I’m watching my two grandkids today. They love my pool.” Frank observed the youngsters running around the pool deck with their colorful float tubes around their waists. Frank smiled.
Gary’s Outdoor Outfitters had several anglers’ float tubes in various colors, shapes, and designs. Frank studied the little watercrafts with a bit of hesitation. Sure they would be perfect for many of the waters Frank fished, but he also envisioned some bad things that could happen with one of those things. “The yellow one is last year’s model,” said Gary. “I can let you have it for less than $100.” Frank being one for a bargain, he agreed and out the door he went with the float tube and inflator tucked under his arm.
The lake was covered in darkness. Early the better was Frank’s motto. And the fact he could get into the water before anyone could see him attempting his maiden voyage with his new little raft was also a good reason to arrive at the lake before daybreak. Frank slid on his waders and filled his vest pockets with a few lures and leaned his rod against his truck. He pulled the flippers on he found in the basement and the new float tube from the cab and laid them on the ground, only several feet from the water’s edge but with a steep slope. Frank plugged the inflator’s power cord into the cigarette lighter. The inflator failed to start. He wiggled the switch and cord but no go. “You got to be kidding me,” Frank said to himself. He licked his lips and began blowing into the float tube’s valve. He huffed and puffed enough to blow down a straw house, which took much longer than he had planned. Still not in the water and the sun’s rising was beginning.
Frank hauled his outfit down the bank to the water. He positioned the tube on the still water and it seemed to be patiently waiting for Frank to mount up. With rod in one hand, the other steadying the tube, he hopped toward the tube’s opening with swim fins on his feet. He piled up on the float tube like ice cream on a cone. Feet not fitting through the center of the tube, he rolled off the tube and into the water. The water running into his waders was surprisingly cold. Fast as a soaked rabbit, Frank leaped from the water and up to his truck. Removing the waders and drying off took a few more minutes of Frank’s pressing time. Going with plan B, Frank sat on the ground, slipped into the float tube, strapped on the flippers and grabbed his pole lying next to him. As he tried to stand, he fell back down. He began to roll towards the water and couldn’t stop. SPLASH! He was in.
Once upright, Frank felt like an oversized bobber, bobbing up and down. He looked around to make sure he was still alone. Clear. He began to settle down and gave a few kicks with his feet. He began to cruise along at a decent rate of speed. Frank felt a smile growing on his face. “Yeah. Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he said aloud. The sun was shooting a few new rays of light across the lake. A beautiful sight. Frank paused his kicking to enjoy the moment. The calm water, the warming sun rays, and the smell of springtime water. Then the sound of a boat motor. “A boat?” said Frank. In the distance, but coming fast, Frank heard an outboard. The boat appeared and seemed to be heading straight for Frank. As the boat came closer, and not slowing, Frank waved his arms as a warning at first and then as a reaction to his panicking.
Not seeing him, the boater passed within a few feet of Frank and his float tube. The first wake nearly flipped Frank and the second one washed him up on the shoreline once again. After the waves settled and Frank regained his nerve to enter the water again, he readjusted the tube, the flippers, and checked his rod for any breakage. The coast was clear again. Back into the water. Frank waddled like a giant frog stuck in a tire, flipping feet and wobbly as a new born deer learning taking its first steps. Frank stumbled with only two steps to go before being waterborne again. Falling face forward, Frank expected to do an ugly attempt at a nose dive. The tube kept him from plunging under and it put him back in fishing position. Ten minutes later he had a nice bass bite his lure offering.
Frank was amused by the number of small shad swimming around him. He kept casting and was actually beginning to enjoy the morning and the float tube experience. So consumed by the sensation of floating in the water he was nearly rocked to sleep. So content as to not notice the fat, long water snake slithering up and onto the float’s headrest. Frank smelled something strange. He looked left and right and then back to his lure he was retrieving. The snake’s body slipped off the tube’s high point and into Frank’s lap.
From a distance, the returning boater believed he was seeing a large man-like creature walking on water. Removing his sunglasses to get a better look at what he was seeing, the boater watched the thing leap from the water’s surface and attach itself to a standing tree in the water. As he neared the beast clinging to the tree, he saw it was a man wearing swim fins, waders, and a busted and deflated float tube. The boater approached Frank slowly and yelled, “You okay man?” Frank’s bear hugging of the tree was a tough bond to break, but after some extensive coaching, he allowed the boater to guide him into the boat. “What are you doing out here in a float tube for crying out loud,” said the boater. “You should try a canoe.”