Graceful! That was the one word response to describe my water skiing capabilities. It was simply breathtaking to glide across the lake in spectacular fashion.
I was actually amazed. Strapped to a pair of skis for the first time ever, I was doing surprisingly well. I had seen it during a water show at Sea World in Florida while on vacation the previous summer. I just couldn’t believe I was able to do it like a professional my first time out.
Who was I kidding. I was anything but smooth. Making a spectacle of myself was more accurate.
I looked like Steve Martin’s character Tom Baker in “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” when he put on a full body wet suit complete with flippers to accompany his daughter Sarah on a date with Eliot Murtaugh and attempted to water ski.
I never realized water skiing was so difficult. I couldn’t keep the skis straight while I was in the water waiting for the boat to take off with me behind it. I kept getting all tangled up by criss-crossing the skis.
Every time my good friend Ronald Shiderly’s father, Francis, put the motor in drive, I started to climb the water and glide across the ripple of waves; but, inevitably, I either let go of the rope because it was too difficult to hang onto or I sunk because I couldn’t keep my skis straight.
One time, the skis flew up behind me and I was skidding across the water on my face. Ouch! I definitely let go that time.
The summer before my last year in high school was an exceptionally tumultuous time for me. After my father informed the family of his intentions to resign his pastorate of more than five years, I was faced with the realistic possibility of spending my senior year at a new school.
However, there was talk of leaving me behind with virtual strangers to finish my secondary education while the rest of the family moved to a new location in order for my father to continue his pastoral ministry.
While neither option was desirable, I was nonetheless faced with the distinct prospect of choosing between them. I was on an emotional roller coaster that seemed to get more and more out of control as the summer progressed.
I was never more happy when it was time for “Kid’s Kamp” at the end of July 1983. I would get to see all my old friends and be able to forget about my circumstances for at least a week.
But thanks to one of my buddies, I was able to take my mind off my seemingly insignificant problems and enjoyed not only the next week, but the rest of the summer.
I first met Ronald, who was two years my junior, the previous summer when he became a member of the kitchen crew at camp. Although we hung out together that first year, we didn’t become close comrades until the following summer.
Since we only lived a half hour from one another, my mother allowed me to go home with my new friend and his family at the end of the week.
The memories we made that next week were probably some of the happiest of that summer of my discontent. I even celebrated my 17th birthday at their house and spent part of that momentous occasion in their family garden picking vegetables.
But probably the most fun we had was at the end of the week when we borrowed a motor boat from Ronald’s uncle to go to the lake. This was quite an experience for me because I had never been on a motor boat.
I was also excited because we were going water skiing as well.
Ronald had made it look so easy. I thought for sure I could do it. But after failing miserably a half a dozen times, I threw in the towel.
It was hopeless. My dream of being a world class water skier was crushed. Since I couldn’t water ski, I figured my fantasy of sliding down the side of a snow covered mountain in the Swiss Alps was also dashed.
Oh well… easy come, easy go.
However, I was still able to enjoy myself at the back end of the boat.
After putting the skis on the back of the boat, Ronald’s mother, JoAnn, threw me an inter-tube. I laid on top of the rubber tire spread eagle and glided across the lake from one end to the other.
Now that was fun.
But, of course, when it was Ronald’s turn, he had to be a showoff and stand up on the circular tube.
“Ok mister smartie pants,” I thought. “I’ll fix you.”
I asked my friend’s father if Ronald and I could ride the inter-tube together. Francis was agreeable to my suggestion.
Upon taking our places side by side, we started careening across the ripples in the surf as we hung on for dear life. It was exhilarating.
Then it happened. I decide to bump my buddy off the ride and I actually succeeded.
However, I forgot one little detail in my plan. Ronald was the one holding the rope attached to the boat, which he quickly let go of when his body hit the surf. After realizing my folly, the inter-tube and I went on a wild ride of our own.
I was headed straight for another boat coming in the opposite direction. I ditched the flotation device by flipping myself off the back of it. So much for my ingenious idea.
Needless to say, after that little fiasco, our inter-tube rides were at an end; but it was fun while it lasted.
You know when you see those stunts on television, they tell you not to try this at home. Well, they are right. Don’t try that one at home or anywhere else for that matter.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.