By Dorothy McCracken
It all began with my desire to do something for my wonderful Aunt Kay. What could I do for a woman that had everything I could afford to buy?
Aunt Kay may be considered by some standards an unusual woman. However, if you measure her by real standards, she is a phenomenal woman. Growing up in a small town without lots of material things Kay learned early how to enjoy life, and how values and resourcefulness will make a difference in man.
I started thinking of what I could do for a woman, who, instead of getting a manicure and pedicure, volunteered to pick up trash along the roadside for miles to have a marker placed along the highway to honor her mother, Nellie Stockwell Hively Duffield. The soda cans she picked up were taken into the recycle center and the money spent on seeds to plant wildflowers. She also took on the challenge of helping DFAC children that were too difficult for others to handle, hosted foreign exchange students from Germany and Brazil, and nurtured numerous stray cats and dogs abandoned by heartless others. On top of this, Kay is a cancer survivor that lost her voice box to cancer of the throat. Instead of feeling sorry for herself being only able to whisper, she volunteered countless hours counseling other cancer victims like herself and helping them learn to speak again without a voice box.
I pondered on what could I possibly offer her? So little did I know when I posed the question, “What can I do for you Aunt Kay?” Did I have any inkling what an adventure I was in for! Her request, “Let’s take a canoe trip down Elk River,” it sounded so lovely and relaxing. I envisioned us letting the Elk River gently float us down in the shade of the birch, the pines and the maples, little did I know what was in store.
First, we went to pick up a canoe. Well, not just any canoe, no sir, it was a 17-foot aluminum boat that weighed what seemed like a ton. Of course it had to be carried up a steep river bank and loaded into the truck by two women
After feeling like I had just given myself a hernia, and thinking I had a pretty good grip, the next thing I saw were my feet coming up over my head as I rolled backwards down the bank. Once I regained my breath, I had to answer my aunt shouts to, “Hurry up, get a grip, we need to get going!” That should have been my first warning.
We were driven upstream for 12 miles, and when I protested, we settled on eight miles of canoeing. Well, instead of the leisurely floating down the Elk River, it became a battle of trying to avoid the shoals. It had been years since I swam in the Elk River, and did not realize the severe effect the Sutton Dam had on the river.
We hit the shoals on a regular basis – bam bam bam as the aluminum collided with the rocks. Aunt Kay and I had to drag the heavy boat to deeper waters again and again. I complained to my aunt that my arms were aching, and her reply was, “No pain no gain, I feel fine.” My uncle grew anxious of our return and drove up the river to check on us while questioning a few people. A neighbor that lived along the river replied, “I heard a canoe hitting the shoals, and when I looked I saw two women dragging the canoe to deeper water.” That was telling it lightly – my shoulders were aching from lifting and lugging the canoe as my Aunt Kay acted as it was an ordinary feat.
Finally, many hours later, we finished our eight mile canoe trip which I am not likely to repeat anytime soon! I love my Aunt Kay, but the next time I ask her what she would like to do, I think I will suggest a spa treatment….