Father’s Day

Today is the second Father’s Day in as many years that I will be spending the morning at a worship service, then afternoon with extended family. Previously, I’d taken the day off for the annual Childless Man’s Paddlefest – an event observed, now not at all, but then only by myself. However, today, as at about this time last year, I am a father.

Bad Monday

Monday late afternoon or evening, for about a minute, I knew my son had died and held him in my arms helpless to save him. Out of desperation, I placed him on the living room floor and began artificial respiration. His 24 pound body was still HOT from the fever he’d been running, but his skin had turned a blue gray color and his eyes stared fixedly in the direction determined not by his mind, but by the position in which his head lay. His lips were blue. His body was neither rigid nor floppy.

Clear airway, tilt head, cover mouth and nose with my own mouth. Three breaths, instead of the prescribed two. Some chest compressions. Noise as the air passed out of his lungs, over his vocal chords, and out his mouth. My wife had already called 911.

Somewhere in all activity, I prayed while I worked, but not coherently. God doesn’t require my direction to work.

My son’s arms moved a little, but I thought that was just dead nerves twitching as the biomechanical mass shut down in no real order. Then he made a sound unrelated to CPR, and I listened for a heartbeat. It was rapid-fire. I listened for breath, and picked him up. He clung limply now to my neck and I took the phone from my wife. I don’t remember what the 911 operator said after I gave him details about our son’s condition and exactly where to find our house. The guy hung up or the connection was lost.

I could hear a siren, so carried my still breathing boy outside so the driver could easily see which house was ours. My wife rode with him in the ambulance and I followed in her car, which has the child carseat. At the hospital his temp was unreal high, but his other vital signs in the ambulance and in the ER were more reasonable. I still think the hospital should have kept him overnight and monitored him, but they concluded “Febrile Seizure” and with the okay of the on-call pediatrician, discharged him late that night.

By Wednesday, the fever’d gone and it has had no recurrence. He broke out with pink spots Thursday which seems to indicate he’d had roseola. Friday and Saturday, he was his usual happy, inquisitive, toddler-self. He still knows all the words, songs, and activities he knew before his fever and seizure. He seems a little more open-hearted, happy, loving since he got sick, and a little less arrogant. That made me worry about whether he might have lost a few IQ points due to sickness, but our pediatrician laughed at that, said there was no reason to think the fever or seizure had affected his mental processes. Maybe he’s more open because he knows we really will take care of him?

That’s the story of how I am still a father.

Paddling

Quiver Sail on deck at left saw some use yesterday 6/20/09

Quiver Sail on deck at left saw some use yesterday 6/20/09

I woke up early Saturday, and got ready to paddle. Tsunami Chuck sold me a hand-held Quiver Sail that arrived by Fed-Ex on Thursday or Friday. Because I’m a miser, I’d agonized over the past year or so about replacing my Round-Up golf that had umbrella inverted and snapped in heavy wind by the small island on Tims Ford Lake sailing up into Lost Creek Branch. Should I buy a good golf umbrella, or ask for one out of somebody’s garage for free? So, when Chuck posted a classified about the Quiver Sail asking only $35.00 for it, I bought it.

Although the National Weather Service predicted temps in the upper nineties, it also predicted 10 – 15 mile per hour winds. A good day, I thought, to try out the new sail. I loaded gear and boat yesterday morning (because we looked at houses Friday afternoon/evening). I had trouble getting the boat on the roof racks – the front-door prop method failed spectacularly and cussed Godward like a heathen. Finally succeed using angry brute force in racking the 75# kayak, and drove out to the Woods Reservoir public access ramp off Old Brick Church Road in Coffee County.

I explained to God that the reason I was cursing was because of a circumstance so manifestly out of order that in my anger I was inviting him to observe and get angry about it with me. I said I would probably always thus bring wrong to his attention in the hope that he will take corrective action. I told God I would prefer not to feel the need to use profanity, but unless he altered my consciousness somehow, I would probably continue to express the things he’s used to hearing me express. Not defiant or disrespectful; transparent and real.

The ramp was not crowded and the put in was easy. Immediately, my injured shoulder communicated its distress to me, and I worked on paddling technique. That helped some. I was paddling in to maybe a nine mile per hour wind. When I got out by Elder Island, I turned the boat around and deployed the sail. Not much joy there in terms of forward momentum.

I paddled over to Morris Ferry Landing to see what the Arnold Engineering and Development Center’s base commandant has done in terms of public access. I found, to my surprise, a number of vacation trailers still in place and in use up in the trees above the lakefront. Many of the rickety, tin-sided dock structures have been removed. The covered dock by the cafe/store building has been removed.

The public does have access to the site in terms of boat-ramp use, bank-fishing, and swimming. The formerly public toilets have been padlocked, and I saw no trash cans. Simple steps that tend to limit the amount of time members of the general public will remain on site during normal hours of use.

I saw a couple bank-fishing, both of whom I tested when they were high school students, along with their year-old baby boy. An alert-looking blond-headed little boy sitting quietly under the shade of a tree in his stroller observing everything. I congratulated them on their little one, and the fact that they appeared to be catching a lot of fish.

Paddling back under the causeway to the AEDC side of the lake, I found the wind had picked up, but wasn’t blowing in the direction I wanted to go. I paddled back past the smaller Island of the Birds, and again deployed the sail. Worked better in a stronger breeze, but still slower than paddling. I sailed for awhile, then paddled back to the ramp.

Sons and Fathers

At the boatramp, I observed an ancient pontoon boat having engine trouble – whining at high pitch, emitting clouds of white smoke, then stalling out. Two or three men on the deckboat in early middle age. Parked by the ramp was a black Pontiac Firebird, like the one driven by Dwight Schrute (only Dwight’s is some kind of reddish color). Standing at the shore was a young man with long hair. He belonged to the car.

“Engine trouble?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, “My dad can’t get it working.”

“You never know how your boat’s going to do until you get it to the water.”

Listening to the young man talk with his dad, it was obvious he wanted to salvage the situation for his father. He asked whether he should see about getting the father’s bassboat, and then called a couple of people to arrange its transport. It was important to this kid that things work out for his dad.

I recall when I was young and out for the day with my father sometimes things wouldn’t go as planned, and I always wanted to be able to alleviate his frustration by making things work out well for him. My dad’s tolerance for unexpected and confounding exigencies of circumstance was a lot lower than mine seems to be.

Now that I’m the dad, will my son be burdened with the sense that he’s got to make sure things turn out okay for me? I hope not.

Winchester City Park to Wagner & Boiling Fork Creeks

Last Thursday and Friday, I completed most of my Chattanooga reports and did some other work. I haven’t felt much like writing anything else, but do want to post some photos from my paddle yesterday afternoon at Winchester, Tennessee. Mapquest revealed the location Winchester City Park, which is across the street from the city’s Swimplex. A windy day, and possibly the coolest sunny day we’ve had this Fall, the boat ramp was not busy, although a children’s party of some sort was taking place at or around a nearby pavilion.

As I was readying Campsis Radicans for launch, a man in a bassboat in friendly fashion told me I would be well served by a sailing rig. No fish had he caught. We laughed about the wind. I was looking forward to paddling against it, I felt like I needed the exercise and something to resist (however, if the radical socialists prevail in the coming US elections, thinking Americans who put their nation and its constitution first will have plenty to resist – see Buchanan & WSJ).

On the water, I paddled left, past the other boat ramp and the fishing dock, then under the bridge. I came to a sort drainpipe through which I paddled into a backwater into which flowed a creek the name of which I do not know. Paddled under a footbridge and around a bend then through a tiny sea of twigs until I ran aground, then back the way I came. A footpath with benches and a bridge passed over and along the creek’s bank, apparently part of the city park complex.

Both my prior trips this way, I ignored Wagner Creek Branch. On the map, it doesn’t look like much. From the water, too many houses on the bank at my right, steep and rocky with fewer houses on my left. I liked the left bank much better. Saw a small kayak unsuitable for covering flatwater distance on a paved private boat ramp behind a too large, too new house that I tried not to covet. On the left bank I saw an eccentrically but attractively painted dock.

Under the road bridge farther upstream I saw a fat, brown groundhog on a rocky shelf next to the water. Looking at me as I greeted it with a quiet and surprised, “Hello,” the creature turned and hastily walked out of sight under an overhanging shelf nearby. Around the next clump of trees and shoreline, I met a man and woman fishing. They said they had caught nothing, and asked a couple of questions about kayaks.

Back out and around the point to Boiling Fork creek, the wind began to howl from the northeast, as NOAA had predicted. I spoke baby words my son uses into the wind, “Eeeachh,” “Eh, Eh,” then “Bwah!” to the water. Early yet, I thought it would be interesting to back to that cave I’d paddled into on June 21, the day I paddled twice to the map’s edge. The water was lower by several feet, yesterday, as Tims Ford reduces volume to winter pool levels. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that far back up Boiling Fork.

Strong wind at my back I thought, “Paddling back against this will be difficult.” Water was sufficiently high to wend my way through Winchester, the slough behind the main street into town, probably Hwy 41-A/64, then past the new Franklin County High School, and to the cave in question. I could have gone farther, but since I’d got such a late start (on the water around 12:15 pm), I’d head back after seeing the cave. I observed tracks in the cave I could not identify. One of the photos I took of the inky blackness beyond the muddy floor shows the gleam of what might have been an animal’s eye. Maybe a raccoon or a small wildcat of the sort indigenous to the region. I observed the cave paintings of a troglodyte band proclaiming themselves “PUNKS” next to red earthen handprints and an alphabetic arrangement I have not yet deciphered in the same medium. Through a cloud of mosquitoes at the cave’s mouth I paddled backwards, observing a large carp in the shallow water unconcerned with my presence.

Stopped out of the wind to eat a snack made of two Slim Jims and a croissant, three generic Fig Newton cookies, and two hands full of salted almonds and raisins. And then back to the boat ramp against the howling wind that sped my passage the other way. Near the roadbridge close to the city park’s boat ramp, I saw two men in a flatbottom, motorized fishing boat. One of them said he was having a pretty good day, had caught no fish, and opined that less the wind, the day would improve.

Shortly thereafter, upon reaching the boat ramp, I wished the wind had been stronger. I saw another of the groundhogs standing on the rocks beside the ramp. I took a picture as the animal quickly walked away.

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

Tims Ford State Park

Winds’re predicted from East Norhteast today. I’m headed for a state park boat ramp, to an area I’ve never paddled. Have a map, have a compass, three quarts of water, and a lunch I’ve just packed. I overate yesterday at a coworker’s farewell lunch, so I’m all carbed-up for the day. Joints are feeling better, but the ancient Klepper backrest I’ve been using for the past year or so blew out last week. Dunno what that’ll do to my forward stroke, much less my aging lower back. Time to find out.

At the state park boat ramp and dock - Wildlife Resources boat
At the state park boat ramp and dock – Wildlife Resources boat
Paddling southwest and looking left - warm morning's sky
Paddling southwest and looking left – warm morning’s sky

When the markets crash, and those institutions and things relied upon are no more, this will look a lot more Charles Addams than it does now
When the markets crash, and those institutions and things relied upon are no more, this will look a lot more Charles Addams than it does now
Nameless islands and distant shorelines seen from The Narrows
Nameless islands and distant shorelines seen from The Narrows
Second time I've approached this island (last time was the day my golf umbrella broke), this time from another direction
Second time I approached this island (my golf-umbrella sail broke last time I was here)
My back and legs hurt badly by the time I reached the island's lee - convenient cinder-block steps led up
My back and legs hurt badly by the time I reached the island – convenient cinder-block steps led up
Steps behind me, I walked through a clearing and down the ridge's central trail, looking back to see the way I'd come
Steps behind me, I walked through a clearing and down the ridge’s central trail, looking back to see the way I’d come
To my surprise, I found island camping is permitted
To my surprise, I found island camping is permitted
No surprise at all, I found what trash left behind
No surprise at all, I found what trash left behind – this; an open latrine; a portable grill; etc.
Here's a view from the island looking back toward, IIRC, The Narrows
Here’s a view from the island looking back toward The Narrows
Tims Ford Dam distant - a boat ramp is to the right, almost adjacent the dam
Tims Ford Dam distant – a boat ramp is to the right, almost adjacent the dam
Not far from the dam

Not far from the dam

Completing my original circuit - here is the boat ramp at Tims Ford State Park

Completing my original circuit - here is the boat ramp at Tims Ford State Park

You can rent these at the boat dock - Looks like they've got them chained to prevent theft - Can you imagine?

You can rent these at the boat dock - Looks like they've got them chained to prevent - I have to laugh at this - theft

I saw a lot of fish, but didn't see anybody catching fish

I saw a lot of fish, but didn't see anyone catching them

Later: I’m going to have to find some back support. My body today was a Disneyland of neuropathy – numb feet, shooting pains in the palms of my hands, similar pains in the soles of my feet, some numbness in the left hand. Didn’t help that I started off with the Nautiraid Greenlander seat (which replaced the East German rubber tractor seat that shipped with the E68, and worth every penny) a little overinflated. That coupled with some of the lately recurrent shoulder pain, and back pain.

The predicted wind blew, and was alternately a hindrance and a help.  I made about 12 to 13 miles, counting the paddle back through the park after completing my original circuit.  I’ve walked the trail to Weaver Point dozens of times.  Today I was able to paddle the water seen from that path, which has been sort of a goal since I got my first boat in 2005.

I think these are martin houses - used to see many more of them in this part of Tennessee.  The martins, in season, help to keep mosquitos and other insects in check.

I think these are martin houses - used to see many more of them in this part of Tennessee. The martins, in season, help to keep mosquitos and other insects in check.

I chatted with the Wildlife Resources woman before setting out about 7:20 am (I had farther to drive than last week).  A state employee, her job consists of every day driving around the lake in the boat pictured near the top of this post, and talking to every angler she sees in order to determine number of fish caught, their type, and their size, then recording that data for the agency.  That’s it.  She said that, as with any job you have to do every day, it can get old, but she remembers answering phones for the agency’s revenue division, her previous employment, and said, “I’ve been blessed.”  I guess she has.

Young great blue heron takes flight

Young great blue heron takes flight

Plenty of fish were in evidence.  All day long I heard the sound of countless cicadas in the trees, listened also to the sound of the wind in the trees, each tree taking a different voice than its neighbor.  I snapped a picture of large carplike beast to port in a shallow creek in the park.  I saw what I think, because of its slow reflexes and starveling appearance, was a very young great blue heron, and I was able to snap its picture as it moved to take flight.  On my way out of the park, saw something to port that I, with hardly a conscious thought, noted and dismissed as the shadow of a ledge, or a submerged stump.  And then it moved, swimming toward and behind the boat as I started, then paddled on.

Kudzu, at left, encroaches upon indigenous flora, right

Kudzu, at left, encroaches upon indigenous flora, right

Kudzilla rears up to smite puny kayak man.  Undaunted, Christov_Tenn takes a few snapshots to show Caution-Lady and Little Seventy-Six
Kudzilla rears up to smite puny kayak man. Undaunted, Christov_Tenn takes a few snapshots to show Caution-Lady and Little Seventy-Six

I discovered Kuzilla’s Garden, and Kudzilla himself. Some genius imported this stuff from I don’t know where to slow topsoil erosion, and it grows like a monster vine in Jumanji. At an Alabama barbecue, I recall discussing the plant with a fellow who works for a chemical company that manufactures weedkiller for use on big farms. He said it grows from a sort of potato, and to kill the plant, one must kill the tuber. I remember he also said the Kudzu potato is edible. Heck, it’d be the one crop nothing could kill, that would never fail. Probably tastes awful.

Kudzilla's garden - looks like fanciful Disneyland topiary
Kudzilla’s garden – looks like fanciful Disneyland topiary