Sometimes you’re tossed the short end of the paddle~~~
Life isn’t fair. My friend Casey passed away last week after a long battle with cancer~~~
Steve(Casey) tossed me a paddle and asked, “stern or bow?”. Yea, I’d been on a canoe before plenty of times, on flat water not white water so I certainly wasn’t going to know the difference between stern or bow. Puzzled, I answered, “ I’ll take the front.”
That was about 12 years ago. Since then I’ve been on 5 or 6 canoe trips with Casey, Gleason, and dozens of other crewmen seeking the wilderness and “river time”. Casey loved being on the river. Every rock, riffle, or rapid proved a bit challenging along the course of the river. Then there was the slow, flat water. Time to reflect and get to know each other. A time to get to know Casey, his family, his story.
We’d get to a good pullout and Casey became Mr. Efficient: coolers, dry bags, wood, fire, bedding(forget a tent, Casey loved sleeping under the stars). Once we had fire and a couple?? beers, it was story time. Most of the stories were provided by Gleason but we all had a great time sharing our river tidbits.
When it was Casey’s night to cook, boy, were we in for a treat. Dang, did he bring it! Cloth napkins, red wine, and a basketball size roll of aluminum foil. Yep, all year long he would rinse and recycle foil just for this occasion.He’d triple wrap a huge hunk of meat or fish, potatoes, green beans, and bread. Just when you think he’d run out of foil, he’d cover the brownies in the dutch oven and put all of this over the hot coals.
But wait, there’s more! After dinner and dessert were cooking, as if he were the Iron Chef, he’d whip out appetizers. Man, there would be a spread of cheeses, hummus (with all the fixin’s), even smoked salmon with red onions and capers. Now you can see why we all looked forward to Casey’s night to cook. And the stories and song continued into the night.
Normally Casey was the first one up. The fire would be blazing before he’d even peed. One by one we all got up, shook out the cobwebs, and were greeted with an espresso. Casey was so proud of his tiny one-cup, one-flame camp espresso gadget and took this time to get us ready for the river.
When Casey moved to Portland, we’d get together once in a while with Gleason and the guys for what I affectionately call “ale bonding”. We’d engage in the typical banter over a couple?? of beers: sports, family, the next canoe trip. Sometimes Casey and I would make a beer wager on a game. Last October he took his beloved Buffalo Bills over my faithful Forty-niners. The wager- a beer. Just a pint. You see, for me this wasn’t about the beer or the football, it was another chance to see Casey.
Boy, the next canoe trip, I’m sure gonna miss Casey’s paddle on “river time”~~~