Kid Kayakers meet the Jon Boat


Yeah, I know I’ve sort of been purging my soul lately. Once again I’m about to tell you a story that bvlaI’m not particularly proud of. Just try and remember that there is no correlation between my compassion for people and my ability to joke about their misfortunes.

But as I’ve said on previous posts, funny is funny.

Right? Besides, no laws were broken that I’m aware of and nobody was injured as far as I know so it’s all good.

It happened years ago when my friend and I decided to spend a lazy Saturday floating down Paint Creek, from a few miles west of Bainbridge to just west of Chillicothe, a distance of maybe 20 miles. Problem was we had no kayaks or a boat of any kind.

After asking around, one of my relatives mentioned that my late grandpa had a big old Jon Boat in his shed, one of those that was rectangular shaped and about 12-feet long. The thing was huge. Perfect, we thought. We’d commandeer that baby and go to town.

We loaded up the Jon Boat in my buddy’s truck (not an easy job — I think we turned it upside down and it practically covered the cab of the truck), stopped for some beverages, and hit the highway. Soon we were at our drop off point (a friend was to drive the truck to our destination and leave it there) and we were ready to turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream.

However, as we exited the truck we noticed something a bit unnerving — the water was really, really high. And fast. Being the inexperienced boaters that we were, checking the water level had never crossed our minds. In addition, being the moronic doofuses that we were, we didn’t even have lifejackets.

Note II: While looking up the plural of doofus, I discovered that “doofi” is also acceptable. Doofi. How cool is that?

Bottom line, we were woefully unprepared to launch our vessel into the raging, swollen tributary that was Paint Creek. Hell, anybody with a brain would have turned back right there. Of course, we thought about it for about three seconds, tossed our cooler into the boat and ventured onward.

It became clear right away that we were in over our heads, so to speak. The place where we entered the creek was just above a section called The Falls, and the water was high and moving fast. On a related note, it soon became clear that Jon Boats weren’t made for white water rafting.

We began moving and immediately started picking up speed. The original idea of a leisurely float down the creek seemed like a dim memory. Still, we thought if we could get through the upcoming falls things would slow down a bit and we’d be fine.

And we probably would’ve been, had it not been for the Cincinnati Area Youth Kayak Club awaiting us around the bend.

We first saw them as we rounded a slight turn in the creek. There had to be 30 of the little rugrats in the water up ahead. Turns out they were having one of those team building exercises that day. They all had these cute little different colored kayaks, nice little protective helmets, and, of course, lifejackets. They weren’t stupid, after all. That would’ve been us.

Yeah, sorta like this.

Yeah, sorta like this.

In addition, there were counselors among them, some in kayaks and others on the bank with bullhorns, shouting instructions. I found out later that many in the Cincinnati Area Youth Kayak Club that day were kids who had had been in trouble at school or with the law, the idea being that spending a day on the creek, learning to operate a kayak and getting in touch with nature would do them good.

Oh, they got in touch with nature alright.

Who knew a 12-foot rectangular shaped Jon Boat could go faster than a 6-foot kid’s recreational kayak?

Chaos was about to ensue.

We stormed through the kayakers, all the while being screamed at and chastised by the men with bullhorns on the shore. My buddy may or may not have flipped them off as we flew by, but that can’t be confirmed. The little kayakers paddled away frantically, desperately trying to avoid contact with our battleship. I can’t lie to you, I’m pretty sure I heard some crying, and yes, there were screams of terror as we barreled through. I swear at one point I thought we were going to T-Bone a kid in a kayak, but somehow (out of pure terror I suspect) he summoned the power to miraculously paddle out of harm’s way.

Not all were so lucky, however. We clipped one of the pint-sized kayaks on its tail, sending a youngster overboard and into the drink. I’m pretty sure I yelled “Sorry!”, though I can’t be sure. Last I saw he was dog-paddling his way to the outstretched oar of one of the adults. Thank God for that I guess?

It was sort of like Moses parting the Red Sea, the way those little kayakers got out of our way. It was a beautiful thing, really. You know, other than the kid that almost drowned. As we pulled away from the mass confusion, we saw instructors, kids and parents alike shaking their fists at us as we made our escape.

Of course, My idiot friend and I had a great view of all this because at that point we were floating backwards.

We continued on downstream that morning, half-expecting the authorities to be waiting up ahead somewhere, ready to charge us with inducing panic or negligent use of a Jon Boat or, you know, attempted murder.

But alas, nothing. We’d escaped unscathed.

Too bad I can’t say that about the kid we nearly killed. Little dude probably never went near a creek again.

Dave Shoemaker is a retired teacher, athletic director and basketball coach with most of his professional years spent at Paint Valley. He also served as the national basketball coach for the island country of Montserrat in the British West Indies. He lives in Southern Ohio with his best friends and companions, his dogs Sweet Lilly and Hank. He can be reached at

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