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Head in the Clouds — A Good Way to Spend the Day

June 30, 2009

First, I cajoled my husband into buying a house on a mountainside in Cumberland, Md., near Lake Habeeb. Harder was cajoling him to buy a canoe. Harder still was getting the canoe to the house. It sat upside down behind our regular suburban home for a year, stamping a canoe-shaped island of mud on our lawn.

The fate of the canoe had been colored by The Mattress Incident.

You see, in furnishing our mountain house with Craigslist finds, I also cajoled my husband into hauling a pristine but bargain-priced mattress to Cumberland atop the mini van. The mattress flew off onto I-270 about 10 miles from home. He wasn’t used to hauling things on tops of cars. The bad thing was I wasn’t in the car at the time, so I just had to hear about the ordeal, repeatedly. No injuries were reported, at least.

Yesterday, I convinced him to do it again, and we strapped on the canoe. Turns out mini vans are factory fitted with hooks under the bumpers for just such occasions. After two nervous hours, we made it to the mountain, and today — taking another leap of faith — we put the canoe in the lake.

I say leap of faith because the canoe is seriously vintage — another Craigslist find. It was made in the 1960s and is solid aluminum. It’s heavy, and it came with a wooden liner and wooden seatbacks for the middle passengers who sit inside — down in the bottom, not on slat seats like the canoes you rent. I had heard all about the canoe’s adventures on various rivers and lakes in the U.S. from the elderly gentleman who sold it to me for $60. I loved it and its history.

My husband was skeptical of the canoe’s potential for buoyancy but he had not met the owner and heard the tales of his annual scraping and painting of the canoe, which is red. It’s best to get off every bit of paint each year before putting on two new coats, he said. The seatbacks have the initials of the man’s family professionally lettered on the top. The wooden liner was lacquered. It’s so beautiful I want to hang it on the wall. The canoe harkens back to a time when families took the kids fishing on vacation and understood the character of the many waterways across the country, and wanted to navigate them all.

The canoe, its paint now dull and its bow caked with dirt from my yard, performed like a champ — not a leak anywhere among its grommets or seams. It was sturdy and solid in the water, even with two teenage boys standing up, waving paddles around, and mindlessly floating into the wakes of more powerful boats.

The boys had complained about having to put the boat on the car, about having to haul the boat to the lake, and about having to carry the boat to the water’s edge. They moaned, too, about having to paddle the darn thing. Why didn’t we get a motor for chrissakes?

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