by David Dement
As we slip out of our sleeping bags and crawl out of our tents into the cool Ozark morning, I am struck by the beauty of the new day on the Buffalo River.
There is a quiet reverence as I look at the fog tinted gold by the early morning sun. Somewhere across the river, a bull frog complains to the world in his deep baritone voice. It seems as if the whole world has had its volume turned down. I can hear the gentle rustle of the water as it flows past.
Up and down the gravel bar where we camped last night, there are members of our small group stirring around preparing for the second day of canoeing. One by one the tents come down and everything is packed into the canoes. Two of the older boys in the group ask if they can take the kayak and get started ahead of the rest of the group. Everyone else is almost ready to leave so I tell them they can go, but not to get to far ahead. In the group we have twelve Boy Scouts and four adult Leaders. The boys opted for this trip over a week at summer camp. For many of them, this is their first trip on the river and for a few, it is their first canoe trip ever. I must admit that I had some misgivings about taking this many boys out for an overnight trip on the river but by this point, I feel that this was the best trip we could have settled on. All of the boys have proven that they can handle the canoes and most have taken a turn in the kayak. We have gotten past some of the earlier tensions of the younger boys not wanting to paddle with the older ones. The older boys have taken responsibility for the younger boys and have worked with them to help them learn how to control the boats. I think this will be only the beginning of many such trips for most of them.
The river has a way of getting into your heart and mind and always drawing you back, filling you with the urge to see whats around the next bend. I know I will be back. The Buffalo has worked it's magic on me and I want to see all it has to offer. I want to float it's waters and walk it's trails. I want to explore up the side canyons and look into its many caves.
Now I am the last person left standing here on the river bank. I take one last look around and walk to my canoe. My partner for today is my youngest son. "Come on," he says, "everyone else is gone." I slide the canoe into the water and we paddle into the mist that still shrouds the river. Up ahead I hear the clunk of a paddle from one of the other boats. Somewhere a fish jumps; the sound of the splash bouncing off the smooth rock bluff somewhere behind us. I hear the bull frog still croaking out his complaints. As we drift along, I look around and say a silent prayer that someday all these boys can stand in reverence to the beauty of a flowing river and share it with their sons and daughters.
If only every child could have their own special river, how much better the world would be.
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