Row Boats and Column Boats
I’ve always had a special place for boats in my outdoorsman heart (which, sadly, has gone fishing without me while I am stuck working in my stuffy writing office). I like boats so much that every Saturday I go out on Alligator Lake in a nice rowboat. By nice I mean that it's stocked with plenty of dirty socks for that inevitable day when the rag that replaces the missing drain plug is mislaid.
I used to go with a pimply youth named Caleb Hoots, commonly known as Cahoots, but only because he owned the boat. A while back I acquired his boat, the peculiar circumstances of which are recounted here.
“Wake up, sleepyhead!” I yelled through Cahoots’ window early in the morning that Saturday.
His lumpy face, looking as if it had just been bitten by ten rattlesnakes, appeared at the window, yawning. “Just give me another hour, man,” he mumbled.
“No way. I didn’t get up this early to wait around while you sleep. Now get out here so we have time to pick up lunch at Greasy Hank’s and still get to Alligator Lake by noon.”
Cahoots groaned and disappeared from view. I waited impatiently for sixty seconds, which is about how long it takes him to collect his fishing gear from under his bed. By the time he finally emerged it was already noon.
“What took so long?” I snapped in a peevish voice.
“I had to grab a drink of water on the way out,” Cahoots replied.
I laughed. “You’ll get plenty of drinks before we’re done on the lake.”
Together we sauntered down the street toward Greasy Hank’s Bar ‘n’ Grill. I was sorry I hadn’t brought my truck. Cahoots’ rowboat weighed more than my tackle box. By the time we arrived at Greasy Hank’s I was wheezing for air.
“Why don’t you carry your boat next time?” I snapped.
“Hey man, I carried it halfway,” Cahoots replied. “From my house to the street. Oh great! I forgot my fishing pole. I’ll be right back.”
Cahoots jumped over the fence into his yard. I shook my head at his forgetfulness and went into Greasy Hank’s to order lunch.
Alligator Lake wasn’t very far away. When Cahoots returned with his fishing pole, we went out the back door of Greasy Hank’s and launched the boat.
“Hey man! It’s my turn to sit in the boat while you push off!” Cahoots protested.
“No it isn’t,” I replied with a callous tone. “And don’t be a wimp. Just move quickly enough and the alligator will only get one of your legs.”
Surprisingly, Cahoots, probably spurred on by adrenaline, made it past the alligator without losing any portion of his carcass.
For the next couple hours Cahoots and I trolled our lines behind the boat.
“Maybe we should try putting some hooks and worms on our lines,” I suggested when we didn’t get any strikes.
We did that and Cahoots immediately got a strike. Then my pole jerked.
“Strike one!” I shouted with glee, reeling in a nice rainbow trout.
Cahoots grimaced and reeled in his limp line. “That ---- alligator is a nuisance.”
“You don’t have to use the dashes,” I said, “if you stop using expletives altogether.”
As time wore on, Cahoots became tired of fishing. He lay down in the bottom of the boat, wearing that philosophical expression that I had learned to dread.
“Stop it,” I growled.
“Wearing that philosophical expression. It scares away the fish.”
“How come they call it a ‘row’ boat?” Cahoots asked, totally ignoring my plea.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, whoever named it a ‘row’ boat could’ve just as easily named it a ‘column’ boat.”
I was reminded that Cahoots was one of those modern computerized people. “It’s called a ‘row’ boat because you have to ‘row’ to move it.”
“Nobody says ‘row’ anymore. Nowadays everybody says ‘paddle.’”
“I’m going to paddle you if you keep scaring away the fish.”
“Just think,” Cahoots continued, obviously not frightened by my threat. “There are so many things that could have different names. We just never think about it.”
I laughed and tossed him into the lake. Unfortunately, he was able to get back into the boat before I could paddle far enough away.
“Hey man! What did you do that for?” Cahoots demanded.
“I was trying to drown your philosophical expression before it killed the fish.”
Cahoots showed his appreciation for my concern by doing his impression of a homicidal maniac.
“Okay, that’s enough,” I gasped, prying his thumbs out of my tonsils.
Cahoots calmed down, his philosophical expression having been replaced with one of hatred.
“Stop it,” I growled.
“Wearing that expression of hatred. It attracts the alligator.”
Cahoots replaced his expression of hatred with one of horror.
“That’s better,” I said.
“Duck!” Cahoots screamed.
I looked around, wondering what sort of duck would give Cahoots’ voice a petrified edge. That’s when I saw the alligator flying toward us, its mouth open in a deadly, tooth-spiked grin. I instinctively flattened myself in the bottom of the boat, allowing the reptile to sail harmlessly over me.
“That’s strange,” I commented calmly, paddling toward shore as fast as possible. “I didn’t know alligators could fly.”
When Cahoots didn’t answer, I looked back. He was not in the boat. In fact, he was nowhere in sight.
“Hmm,” I mused. “That’s odd. Maybe the duck got him.”
I kept going until I realized I had paddled the boat all the way into my front yard.
Later that year, I took the boat back to Cahoots. Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was a ‘For Sale’ sign stuck in his lawn. I went inside, but the house was empty.
I never saw Cahoots again, but I had a lot of fun with my new boat. I always wondered what happened to him, though. Did the duck get him or did he escape and move out of town without saying goodbye? Personally, I think it was the duck.