Dateline: 21 October 2016
|Scotty's Boatyard, Owasco Lake, N.Y.|
This is a neat story that I’d like to share with you, my regular Upland readers, and also the children (3 daughters and 2 sons) of my late, great high school friend, Art Dillon. Art passed away back in 2002 from cancer. He was only 44.
Yesterday on the Moravia Class of 1976 Reunion Facebook page I posted the picture above, with the following comment…
"I found this old picture today and thought I’d share it here. I’m pretty sure it was the spring of 1976 and it was at Scotty’s Boatyard, at the end of a canoe race. Left to right in the picture: Paco Rosado, Charlie Wright (in truck), Maureen Carey, Art Dillon, and me. Paco and Charlie were in one canoe and Art and me were in another. Me and Art did pretty well and got a trophy. It was a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can with a canoe on top. One of the very few trophies I’ve ever won in my life. :-)"
After posting the picture, Seccy Cogswell Carson (a 1976 classmate) asked if I had the trophy displayed. I replied that I didn’t know where it was. I suspect it is buried in a landfill somewhere, and has been there for a long time.
Well, that picture on Facebook was noticed by Art’s wife, Lori. She found Art’s trophy (each of us got one at the end of the race), took a picture of it, and posted it to Facebook. Here's the trophy….
It says First Place on it.
To my surprise, Lori said that she still has Art’s canoe. It is light blue in color, and he painted the name, Desire on it.
So, it’s pretty neat how that all came together on Facebook. And now, I’d like to tell you the rest of the story…
After getting a big First Place in that local canoe race, Art figured that he and I (with Desire) should enter the World Canoe Regatta in Bainbridge, New York. Art had the canoe. Art had the vehicle to get us there. And he took care of all the entry details. I was just his willing racing partner.
The race was at the end of May, 1976. I checked the internet and it’s not referred to as The World Canoe Regatta anymore. It’s the General Clinton Canoe Regatta.
Too bad. That just doesn’t have the same ring to it as The World Canoe Regatta.
Well, anyway, it was just me and Art on this great adventure, and we were feeling pretty confident in our abilities. The race was on the Susquehanna River and I don’t recall exactly how long it was. Five or ten miles maybe. It was quite a distance (but it was not the 70 mile endurance race—that much I’m sure of).
I remember that there were so many entrants that they had the canoes start in several groups. It was a timed race. We were given a big identification number that, if I recall correctly, we put on the front of the canoe.
Soon after arriving, it was obvious to Art and me that most of the racers were very serious contenders. They had lightweight racing canoes and special racing paddles with wide ends and bent handles. We also noticed that many of the competitors (all men that I recall) had impressive upper body physiques; they were built for canoe racing. And some of them were speaking French!
We were just a couple of skinny high school amateurs (and country hicks to boot). We were totally outclassed.
The start was kind of intense. There was a short period of chaos as all the canoeists jockeyed to get off the line. A canoe near us tipped over and two guys were splashing around while everyone drove on by them.
By the time we got to the finish line we were exhausted. We had given it our best shot. We had passed a lot of other canoes, and a lot of other canoes had passed us. But, since there were so many different starts, and canoes from other races on the river with us, we had no idea how we did when we got to the end. After waiting around for awhile, the last of the canoes for our race came in and the results were posted.
There were over 100 canoes in our race and, to our utter surprise, we came in third.
To be honest, I don’t remember if we actually were third from last. But we were really close to last place. We were so close to last that we were profoundly humbled. I remember we took some satisfaction in the fact that we weren't dead last. That would have been totally humiliating.
And that was the end of our canoe-racing adventures.
Art was a great guy and a great friend. We had a lot of different adventures back in our high school days. Some of them I’ll never tell. But most of our adventures were good, wholesome fun centered around outdoor activities. Looking back these 40 years later, I’m thankful for the experiences, and the memories. I only wish that Art were still here so we could look back on them together.
A year after this canoe-racing chapter of my life, I had another canoe adventure with another friend, on the Lamoille River in Vermont. You can read about it HERE.