Our Readers Write
Fall In! Autumn Comes to Canoe Country
September 30, 2008
Autumn has come to Canoe Country, though there’s still plenty of time left before winter locks up the waters. In many ways, this is the best season of the year to get out in a small boat. Still, with the days getting noticeably shorter and the nights turning frosty, you’ll have to come home sooner or later. And when you do, you’ll probably want to catch up with the scuttlebutt at In the Same Boat. After all, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
OK. We’ve gotten a lot of mail since the last “Our Readers Write” in late July. Not surprisingly, food is a favorite subject. It always is. Whether you paddle to eat or eat to paddle, there’s no getting away from the need to keep fuel in your tank. Of course, food isn’t the only thing on readers’ minds. Many of your e-mails address equally weighty matters. Like the utility of pockets (can you really have too many?) and the enduring value of “wastelands.” And then there are our perennial favorites—waterways and boats. But why take our word for what follows? You can read it for yourself. Right here. Right now. In your own words, not ours. After all, it’s our readers’ right.
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat
Tamia’s column on “Homemade Soup to Go” inspired one reader to pass along a delicious dried soup recipe that’s sure to appeal to paddlers. (NB If you prefer a meatless option, just substitute bouillon as indicated.)
This recipe for potato soup mix sounds like something that might work on a kayak trip. [It is. I’ve tried it.—Editor]
Potato Soup to Go
Makes 6 servings
1¾ cups instant mashed potatoes
1½ cups dry milk
2 tablespoons instant chicken (or vegetable) bouillon
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
⅛ teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoon seasoning salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Place in one-quart canning jars
To prepare, place ½ cup of mix in a bowl and add 1 cup boiling water. Stir until smooth.
Sure sounds good to me, Mimi! I can’t wait to give it a try—and I think I’ll ring the changes a bit, too, adding other dried veggies as the mood strikes: corn, green beans, peas, carrots… Bacon bits (real or imitation) would also taste great, I imagine. Thanks!
Our continuing series, “One Foot in the Grave? Never! Paddling Life After 50” continues to appeal to members of the Over-the-Hill Gang, and “A Pain in the…Shoulder” was no exception. A couple of readers have something more to add, though. Read on…
Shouldering Stress Out of the Way
That was good advice, from the perspective of one who has gone through this once and had a shoulder manipulation to get the therapy started, and who is now going through physical therapy for the other shoulder. All of your exercises are things I have done (and do) and am attempting to do on the other shoulder. What I have found to alleviate all of this pain, however, is to get to the source, which, for me at least, is stress.
After years of a stressful job and a body that was in constant high gear running on nothing but adrenalin, I find that even after being retired for four years my body still wants to go into high gear at the slightest stressor. It has learned that this is “normal.” It’s always hard work for me to mentally let go, get myself calm, and convince my innards that there is another way to handle things. Others with this problem might want to consider breathing exercises and exploring different methods to become calm and gain control. These old bodies of ours think they know everything—and they do—but it’s just not always the best knowledge. Running for years on nothing but adrenalin may have worked in our 30s, but it doesn’t anymore.
I wish I’d had some advice the first time around. I might not have let it go so long.
You’re absolutely right, K, stress can certainly add to the burden our shoulders bear, and your suggestions for lightening the load sound good to me. They’d be well worth following. (With prior medical consultation, of course. See the letter below.) And let’s not forget another therapeutic option—paddling. It’s a great stress-reliever.
Shouldering On After 50—Safety First!
Your article on shoulder exercises is very good. At some time after 50, a morning pain session is experienced by every person who is active. Welcome to the Correct-Side-of-the-Grass club.
Ever since I had to have a couple of muscles reattached between my left shoulder and my arm, those shoulder exercises are a way of life. However, the orthopedic surgeon that did my surgery told me that a modified arm rotation is a lot safer than the double arm rotation. He did not like to see folks bend over from the waist without support, out of concern for overloading the lower spinal discs. He had me do arm rotations by standing next to a chair or other support, bend over with one hand on the chair seat, and the other hanging free. Do the rotation set with the free arm and support yourself with the alternate hand. Then repeat the set but with the other arm. This way the upper torso is never supported only by your lower back discs when bent over. Under his instruction I got up to using a can of beans for weight for the arm swing, but he cautioned me that I should never use more than that one-pound weight on my worn shoulder joint. Having just turned 62, remaining mobile is my primary job now.
“Old Fat Man Adventures”
Ouch! Tearing up your shoulder can’t have been too much fun, Barney, and I’m very glad you made it through OK. Staying mobile is definitely Job One. And while I’ve never had any trouble with double arm rotations myself, I can see how they might pose problems for some folks. All of which serves to emphasize a very important point, one that can’t be repeated too often: each of us is unique. So when trouble troubles you, or when you’re thinking about starting a new exercise regimen, see the doc. Then be guided by his (or her) recommendations. “Safety first” is always good advice.
Changing tack now, if I may, Barney, I was a bit puzzled by your “Correct-Side-of-the-Grass Club” reference. Until I thought about it, that is. Then it dawned on me that it was the mirror image of “One Foot in the Grave.” Good one! And there’s no doubt which side I’d rather be on. Thanks for brightening my day.
You Can’t Have Too Many Pockets—
Or Can You?
I love pockets! [See “Pockets: You Can Never Have Too Many!”—Editor] The Nomex® fire pants I wear while assigned to wildland fires have two very generous covered thigh pockets, deep front pockets, and two flap-protected back pockets. In addition, the fire shirt has two pockets as large as normal back pockets. A sunglasses case and small notebook can fit into one of these.
In addition, like you, I am a great fan of vests. My first was a homemade copy (more or less) of a Filson brand “Cruiser Vest” used by foresters for cruising timber (i.e., measuring the volume of wood on the stump). These have the usual great pockets of good vests, plus a huge back pocket used to carry about everything else including the aluminum clipboard to protect the paperwork and map—it could easily hold a canteen and lunch, as well as the clipboard. I have graduated beyond that vest, mostly purchasing hunting and fishing vests. Columbia makes an outstanding shotgunning vest with a zip-out fleece liner. I never put the liner in, but I do wear it with a coat. When it’s loaded up I have to wear it OVER my coat. Great gear—as long as one doesn’t use the shotgun-shell loops to carry shotgun shells. My experience is that the elastic in the loops loses its elasticity (fast) and no longer holds the shells. An inside pocket zips shut and holds ID as well as fire-starting kit. As much as I like pockets, where I have really missed them most is in Colonial reenacting. As you mentioned, they just did not put many (if any) pockets in those clothes! Then everything goes in either the shooting bag or “possibles” bag over the shoulder.
That said, I have to disagree with you on one point. It IS possible to have TOO MANY POCKETS! Too much stuff gets lost, unless you have a much better organization system than I do. The fire gear has so many pockets I have resorted to attaching my car keys to my belt with a carabiner, and I don’t lock the car without the keys on my belt (good idea with a rental car
don’t ask me why I had to come up with this system). I suspect a good counter-argument to “too many pockets” would be to have one more pocket for the computer containing the catalog listing which stuff is in which pocket. Of course, the pocket with the computer should be handy enough so that the information can be easily accessed!
It’s great to hear from you again, James. It’s wonderful to know that others are as enthusiastic about pockets as I am. You’re right, though: I did overstate the case for pockets just a tad. I also have to admit I was forced to adopt much the same method to keep track of my keys as you did, and for what I’m betting was much the same reason. (Don’t worry. I won’t tell if you won’t.)
An Amateur Geologist Digs Into Her Past
As an amateur geologist, I could really relate to your article about scale [“When Size Doesn’t Matter”—Editor] —Scablands and all! Thank you! (As kids we gave our mother fits, doing our hydroengineering projects at the foot of the driveway.)
Glad you liked the column, Mary. The lure of moving water—any moving water, anywhere—is hard to resist, isn’t it? It’s what first got me interested in geology, too.
Tamia’s article on the treasures hidden in our industrial wastelands, “Waste Not, Want Not,” elicited many thoughtful letters from a diverse group of readers. Here are two representative comments…
Muscular Nature and “Dirty Cricks”
Well Done Tamia!
Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!
I am just back from teaching Ecological Integrity and Commemorative Integrity to new Parks Canada employees. I wish I had your article to pass around at the time. Too often the “experts” ignore the muscular recuperative ability of nature. I will, with your permission of course, use it when I am next called upon to teach our new staff (sometime this fall).
I have expressed similar themes to my Hunter Education students when teaching wildlife management. But not nearly as eloquently as you.
That was a great article; it made my day.
Woodside National Historic Site of Canada
PS I, too, grew up beside a “dirty crick.” It was one of the blessings of my childhood.
It’s great to hear from you again, Rob. I’m delighted that you found my article of interest, and you’re certainly welcome to use it in your classes. I can’t claim that my ideas are in any way original, though. They go back at least as far as the Roman poet Horace, whose classic observation about the recuperative powers of nature (“You can drive nature away with a pitchfork, but she’ll be back before you can turn around”—my rather too-liberal rendering of the poet’s Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret) is still being quoted. Technological advances notwithstanding, it’s as true today as it was in the first century BC.
The Two Faces of a River
Your article was VERY well written, in my humble opinion…and I am a fan of NPR, by the way.
My wife and I used to paddle on the Neuse River in North Carolina, and from the road everything looked bleak, but on the river, we could observe kingfishers, deer, fish, and take in the quiet, solitude, and the voices of nature.
A derelict factory may be a magnet for decay for awhile, but eventually the earth will take it back.
Thanks for your kind words, Tom. It’s always a pleasure to learn that an article strikes a chord with readers. Some four decades ago, Farwell paddled and sailed on the Neuse River, and his stories made me want to go there myself someday. Your letter has reawakened those dreams. Thanks!
More and more folks—from complete novices to veterans with beaucoup miles under their keels—are discovering the many virtues of sit-on-tops (aka SOTs). Our article on “The SOT-Need Factor” encouraged two readers to write and tell us just how much they like their boats. (We weren’t surprised.)
Photo courtesy of Barney Ward.
Your article on SOTs hit the nail on the head. My previous ’yak was sleek, light and fast. I might add the cockpit was cramped. I will be 62 this year and have had my Hobie Mirage for a year now. Best decision I have made in years. After an hour in my previous kayak, I was so cramped I could barely stand up afterwards. I was afraid I was going to have to give up one of my favorite pastimes. I first saw the Hobie in an airport display in Minneapolis, tried it at a local bike/kayak shop in Easton, Maryland, and purchased it shortly afterwards. Our neighborhood has a “paddlers’” group, all about the same ages—50-70. There are now three Hobies: a tandem, a short model for one of the women, and mine. Each time we have a group trip, one of the other members requests an opportunity to take my Hobie for a paddle. These Americans sure can spot a potential market trend! Until your article, I was beginning to think it was just me.
I’m glad you’ve discovered SOTs, Dee. And it sounds as if you’re making other converts, too. The circle is growing!
Inflated Expectations? No Way!
I have been disabled for 10 years with multiple mobility issues (six kinds of arthritis, degenerating spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, and a torn rotator cuff). On top of that, I had a stroke nine years ago. Until my body fell apart, I was an avid backpacker. I thought my world had ended. My doctor suggested that I take up paddleboarding. I tried it and enjoyed it for a few months, but the only destination within reasonable driving distance of my home became seriously polluted by toxic runoff from a fire at a national lab. So I just sat around and dreamed of paddling for several years. I recently moved to northeast Texas and am now surrounded by places to paddle. All that sitting around and dreaming added more pounds to my middle than I care to mention, and my previously somewhat unstable paddleboard became very unstable.
I am now the proud owner of an inexpensive Coleman one-person inflatable SOT, and I am very, very happy with it. It fits in a laundry bag along with my PFD. If I had chosen to use the included paddles, they would fit in there too. The whole thing cost US$72 and change. I chose to buy a Cannon Cascade paddle which moves me along quite nicely and allows for an aerobic workout. Amazingly enough, my SOT tracks quite well, considering its not-very-sleek lines. I feel so great using my body to propel myself about. I expected to be aching when I finished my first voyage on the small lake at a nearby state park, but I just felt invigorated. I find that my overall pain has lessened since I started paddling several times a week.
Inflatables would be a great way for someone to get acquainted with SOTs and see if they like them. For some folks like myself, an inflatable may be just the ticket due to its ease of transport. Other manufacturers make inflatable SOTs as well, so you might want to mention that option for Seniors like myself.
Thanks for yet another great article for the aging paddler.
Mary K. Davis
Your story is an inspiration to us all, Mary, a powerful testament to the human spirit’s ability to triumph over adversity. And if that weren’t enough, you’ve also helped me resolve a terminological dilemma that’s been nagging me for years. Just what, exactly, are inflatables? We’ve called them both canoes and kayaks in past articles, but I’ve never really been happy with either tag. Now I’ve got a better alternative. Your letter makes the case for classing them with the SOTs. There are some exceptions, obviously, not to mention a number of hybrid types, but most of the inflatables I’ve seen—including the Sevylor “inflatable canoe”that I haul behind my bike from time to time—are closer kin to hardshell SOTs than to anything else I can think of. Of course, whatever name we give them, inflatables are delightful boats, easy to store, easy to transport, and remarkably versatile. Your letter makes that wonderfully clear. Thanks!
Though the time’s coming when sensible turtles (and they’re ALL sensible) will burrow deep in the ooze and take a long, well-earned siesta, there’s still the possibility that you might find one trying to cross a busy highway. Our article on “The Courage of Turtles” included pointers on how to help turtles across the road—swiftly, and with style. We’ve been lending a helping hand when needed for years. Now it turns out that we’re not alone…
Thanks to the NY Center
for Turtle Rehabilitation and Conservation
Turtles Through the Artist’s Eye
What a wonderful article on turtles. There is something about them that I have always loved, and your article is the most complete gathering of words about turtles that I have come across. I do plan to print this and tuck it into a wildlife book for my children and grandchildren to enjoy. I have indeed taken turtles off the road, and in one situation there was no place for her to go so we took her along a few miles to Fallingwater, the celebrated Frank Lloyd Wright house in Pennsylvania. It is a lovely place on a river, so I imagine she wasn’t too unhappy.
We live on the edge of a small town in Wisconsin and allow our backyard to be completely wild. We have a resident snapper who on occasion climbs the hill to lay eggs in my garden. One year she was “in the way” (of course, we were in HER way), so my husband scolded her back down toward the pond, and she went. She did appear on a log this spring, and it was a delight to see her. Have you ever seen a turtle climb a tree? A few years ago the pond water was very high, and a medium size turtle actually climbed up a slanted tree trunk to sun itself. We photographed it, and I watched until it seemed to jump off into the water.
I am an artist and have worked with textiles and soft sculpture and have been inspired by turtles in much of my work. I once did an all-leather turtle, and one in velvet whose shell unsnapped to reveal a naked little body in paisley undershorts.
Loretta Daum Byrne
Your wild backyard sounds like a happening place, Loretta. It’s good to know that you enjoyed my article. I find your idea of compiling a wildlife book for your children and grandchildren utterly fascinating, though now that I think of it, I’m not sure if anything could top a turtle in paisley boxers.
Thanks for writing!
Don’t Tell! A Self-Described Hard-nosed Old Coot
Admits to Having a Soft Spot for Hardshell Critters
Just saw your piece on turtles. Very nice. I’m no Tree-Hugger. Rather, a POC (Professional Old Coot!) who packs a gun and has an American flag license plate on the front of my 2000 Lincoln Town Car. (Mainly to irritate my faculty colleagues!)
So, don’t spread this around, but I too am always on the look-out for turtles, squirrels, birds, raccoons, deer, and other wildlife along the roads. Injured or otherwise. Turtles are a special challenge since they are so—well, courageous—as you and Edward Hoagland would say. It’s a terrible thing to see one injured by a car along the road. A helping hand is the very least we can do.
I also very much appreciate your frequent admonitions not to get too close to wildlife. To give them space. Well-meaning folks often disturb the dickens out of our wild neighbors. And there’s no need for it. As you note in your turtle piece, a pair of binoculars will give a much better view from a distance.
Last night, around 6:00 p.m., I was grilling out in the back yard. She Who Must Be Obeyed has banished my little propane Weber Baby Q Grill and me, when it’s running, from the screened porch! Soot on the ceiling, doncha know. Well, I was standing out there just beside the grass, and a tiny self-important school-teacherish bird with a brown body and red head was busying through the grass collecting insects for her dinner. She must have been having a real feast, since she didn’t notice me. On and on she went, closer and closer. The hamburgers began to smoke in a “You’ve charred ’em again!” way. But I didn’t dare move. That little school-teachery bird just came closer and closer. Finally, when she was less than TWO FEET from my feet, I cautiously moved an arm-with-spatula toward the grill. Shocked, the bird fluttered off toward the trees. A great moment!
But anyway, great stuff you write. I enjoy the heck out of it. (Don’t tell…)
The Professional Old Coot
You help turtles cross the road, eh? Well, I’ll be! It just goes to show that Professional Old Coots have heart, too. Keep up the good work. And don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with us. Promise.
“Listen up. I ain’t just another pretty face. Y’know what I’m sayin’?”
Thanks again to the NY Center for Turtle Rehabilitation and Conservation.
Looks like another Old Coot gets the last word. (You can try to stop him, if you want. Better include me out, though.) But formidable as he is, he can’t have the stage to himself forever. Keep an eye open for the last week of the year, when we’ll reprint more letters from our mailbag. In the meantime, our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who’s taken time to get in touch. Keep the e-mails coming. It’s “Our Readers Write,” right? We can’t do this without you!
A little fine print: Although we often ask, just to be sure, we assume that it’s OK to reprint any letter you send us, unless you tell us otherwise. (Just put “Not for Publication” at the head of your letter. That’s all it takes.) We will never put your e-mail address on-line unless you specifically ask us to, however. We also edit letters occasionally for length or clarity, and we add links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever appropriate.
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