Texas Water Safari.

June 17, 2013

This is my parents’ backyard. And this was my parents’ backyard the other day…filled with canoers rowing through on the world’s toughest canoe race.

And whenever this race happens, once a year, this is what my family does. We sit on the dock and root for the rowers. I missed this year because I was in town for BlogHer food, but my brother sent me this photo. Note the playpen on the dock. Around here, docks and babies go together like peanut butter and jelly.

My dad is the guy standing up. He always roots for the racers the loudest because he knows first-hand how crazy you have to be to row a boat from Central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico…he did the Water Safari in 1966.

That’s my dad on the left. He and a friend made the trip when he was 22 years old…Here’s what he had to say about it.

Me: “So why did you guys do this?”

My dad: “I have no idea. We were young. And stupid. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Me: “Was it a good idea?”

My dad: “Well, I wouldn’t use the word good.”

My brother, David: “That first group we saw this year, I watched them online, and they finished the whole race in 39 hours.”

Me: “39 hours? That was the first group? How long did it take you guys, Dad?”

My dad: “Way longer than that.”

Me: “How long did it take you?”

My dad: “I don’t remember. But it was days. We got lost a few times…we didn’t exactly have iPhones to track our location. We just sort of went. And traveling at night was rough because it turned out our waterproof light wasn’t actually waterproof.”

Me: “That’s never good.”

My dad: “The first night, we were paddling somewhere around Gonzales, and we heard some rushing water. Right as we were on top of it, we realized it was a dam. And, long story short, in the process of not killing ourselves, we capsized. We decided then not to row at night anymore.”

Me: “That’s probably a good policy anyway. … But was it fun?”

My dad: “I’m not sure I’d use the word fun … It was an experience.”

David: “Mom, did you follow him?”

My mom: “No. We were just dating. I figured if he made it back alive, we’d keep dating.”

David: “Well, I’m glad that worked out. For everyone.”

Me: “So, okay, that was 47 years ago. You and David should do the race three years from now to mark the 50th anniversary.”

My dad: “Well. That’s one way to go.”

He’s a man of few words, and I’ll never get the real story out of him. But the Water Safari sounds like a really awesome thing to do in theory and a really difficult and/or dumb thing to do in general…especially pre-everything-electronic. I can totally see my dad doing this though. He’s so in, for whatever, and my brother and sister and I get this honestly. My mother says she has three only children…we’re all completely different…and we’re all totally game.

That said, I can not even imagine just getting in a boat…with no direction or connection…and heading south. But when I think about it, and when I was 22, I did things equally as dumb. Hell, I still do things equally as dumb on the regular.

So I get it. I have it. I like the experience. And I guess I have my dad to thank for this trait. This, sure–let’s do this–why not, trait. This works for and against me, and I’ve capsized just as often (if not more) than not. But life is short, ignorance is bliss, and all’s well until your light goes out or you find a snake in your boat. It happens. You keep going.

So this is what I’ve figured out: Taking risks runs in our family … and if we ever forget that fact…it runs through our backyard every year.

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  • Reply barchbo June 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Love this post! Maybe because I love your family.

    “We were just dating. I figured if he made it back alive, we’d keep dating.” Classic.

  • Reply Maile June 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Love this post.

  • Reply christina @ homemade ocean June 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    HOW NEAT! First of all what a fun back yard and second of all the whole theory of a water safari is so exciting! Great post 🙂

  • Reply Grace @ sense and simplicity June 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I’ve never heard of this race – it sounds absolutely amazing and crazy all at the same time. And how wonderful that you can cheer them on from your parent’s dock.

  • Reply Jocelyn June 21, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    My husband did that race two years ago (we live where the race starts). They didn’t allow them to use their phones so that they would have battery power in case of an emergency. So, they got lost a bit too. But they did finish in the required time. Such an intense race! My 5 year old wants to do it with him and we were trying to tell him he’d have to wait until he was older. He doesn’t get how insane it is. It’s fun to hear about someone else’s experience with it, especially from long ago. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Becca June 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    I can totally hear how that convo went. So many good memories on the river bottom. Miss you guys!

  • Reply Ashley June 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

    ahhhh. love this and love you so.

  • Reply Bonnie Watkins June 27, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Tish, enjoyed the metaphors in your writing and the interview with your dad as well as your mom’s droll comment. Authentic voices.

  • Reply Wardie Turner June 26, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Loved this story & picture of Les. He still has that great smile. Way to go Laura b

  • Reply Eileen Troup June 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Enjoyed reading this so much. I just had a 47 year flashback in about 10 minutes. Wonderful memories of a precious family and our times together back then.

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