Of Canoes, Cows and Keys

July 6, 1998

This July 4th, rather than join Michelle's family in a journey to the nearby Kitt Peak Observatory (her mom really felt we should go with them), Michelle and I decided to go to Lake Patagonia, a man-made wonder that sits thirty miles from the Mexican border in Southern Arizona. Our journey was filled with adventure and danger (but no shootings).

During our drive there, it rained constantly, enough to deter most wanderers, but not us. The view on route 83 south, a lazy, winding road, is actually quite lovely and green (two adjectives most people don't associate with Arizona). The town of Patagonia, despite the rain, was full of festive people who didn't mind getting wet. I would have called them crazy except that I was about to go out on a lake with lightning striking nearby. Hey, crazy is just relative, anyway.

Michelle and I ate our lunch and rented a canoe. Because it was the holiday, everyone wanted to leave early, so we couldn't rent it for as long as we would have liked. Only a couple hours of hurried fun. You know, just like those parents who go on vacation to some ridiculously overpriced place like Disneyland or Six flags or Europe and rush from spot to spot in an effort to see everything. In the process, they miss anything meaningful and rarely have fun. I like to laugh at these people, until I realize I am one of them.

I've always loved canoeing, since I was a Boy Scout, so many years ago. My problem has always been not being able to find someone who could row as well as I can (I have the same problem with tennis). Michelle was better than most, especially due to her willingness to put her all into it. I have gone out on a lake with girls before and found myself doing all the work or fighting against them to steer us away from rocks, other canoes, oil tankers. Michelle, with only some coaching from me (she would call it unnecessary), did quite well, and she's no wimp. We got around the lake well enough. It even stopped raining, at least part of the time. It rained off and on the rest of the time, at least a light sprinkle. No lightning, though.

At a distant shore, we got off and hiked around in a little forest, carefully avoiding the mounds of poop thoughtfully left behind by the cows allowed to graze there. Because cows are heavier and have funny shaped feet, the ground was very uneven, as well. I'm sure we were a funny sight, carefully picking our way across a field into a forest, barely able to stand straight and trying to not step on manure mounds. I can honestly say I didn't fall into anything (at least not anything from a cow, although I did fall in the lake).

Back on the lake, Michelle lost her oar and I jokingly insisted she go get it. After her playful refusal, I tossed mine out into the water to join hers (her oar got lonely, that's why). She still didn't want to get wet, so I jumped in to get them (there was a current and pretty soon, we would be rather far from the stranded but not lonely oars). In jumping, I managed to tip the boat just enough for Michelle to fall in the water (reminiscent of the best cartoon characters acting goofy on a boat). Unfortunately, we later realized it was then that her sunglasses fell off in the water, never to be seen again.

Well, we swam around after that and took some pictures with her underwater disposable camera. If any turn out, I may put them on the page. Michelle finally took off her clothes (which were now soaked) and swam in her swimming suit (which was underneath her clothes). Her clothes sat safely in the canoe.

We went to the west side of the lake to catch the wake left behind the motor boats that sped by us until the rangers came and told us not to any more (dangerous or something). So we went into a little cove and tipped the canoe (for practice, so Michelle would know what to do if she were ever caught in the middle of a lake and her short-sighted boyfriend decides to tip the canoe on purpose to teach her how to handle it). Well, it was quite a little adventure. The disposable camera floated (which I tested beforehand), so we didn't lose it. We swam around and even under the overturned canoe and I showed her how to flip it again. We then swam to the closest shore to dump out the water (it was and would have sunk otherwise). It was then that we realized Michelle's clothes were no longer in the canoe. The must have sunk like rocks. Well, we searched for a while but had to quit, because it was time to return the canoe. No big deal. Well, it was, but we could deal with it (along with the lost sunglasses).

After returning the canoe, I realized the key to her sister's car was resting comfortable in the pocket of the shorts that swiftly sank to the lake floor. A friendly ranger told us it could be anywhere between 15 and 60 feet below the surface, way too deep for diving. After a little period of panic (not really; I exaggerate), we collect called and asked her brother to come bring a spare key. He graciously came a couple hours later, long enough for the little gift shop to close early (for the holiday) and the sun to set.

We finally made it home, safe and sound. I can't help but wonder, though. What else lies at the bottom of the lake? Will scientist thousands of years from now find all of our junk and wonder why it was put there? What information about our society will they glean as they search the lakebed and surrounding area? What insights will they gain from our losses? Lucky for them, any cow pies they might find will be petrified. Michelle and I weren't so lucky.

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