I've probably had more than 20 watches over the course of my life but none have meant so much as the one given to me today by eight-year-old Cole Burgraff---a spontaneous act of kindness that I will never forget. Our chance meeting came at the end of our first day kayaking the Yellow River that runs through Spooner, Wisconsin and on through the farm where I grew up.
John and I began our trip yesterday, leaving Grand Rapids at 2 p.m., staying the night in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula, and arriving in Spooner before noon today. The first leg of our kayaking trek was an incredibly beautiful trip up river and then back again to where we had parked the car and then southwest on toward Spooner. I've often said that one of the truisms of my life is: If it's humanly possible to get lost, I will. Well believe it or not we got lost going down river! When we got back on track and started seeing houses along the bank, I called out to a fisherman asking if he knew which way to Spooner. He laughed. How could anyone get lost on a river? Before the Yellow River gets to the dam in Spooner there is a large area of wetland with open water meandering every which way; we took the wrong turn and I feared for a time that we'd be out in the swamp overnight. We finally found our way and then I began recognizing landmarks from childhood, including my grandparents little house. From there we went a short ways and stopped at the motel on the river where we are staying for the next 3 nights. We then went on to the dam where our trek ended for the day.
It was at the dam where I met Cole and his older brother Joshua. Cole came running over and asked in a very friendly way if he could help, seeing that I would have to be getting out of the kayak at a precarious place. I gladly accepted his assistance, but in the process slipped on the bank and fell into the cold water, getting soaked up to my elbows. Cole kept saying he was sorry, but I assured him it was my fault. I must not have been very convincing because he insisted I take his watch as a gift. I said no, that I couldn't do that, but he was persistent, and I know it is wrong to refuse to accept such a gracious gift. Here is a photo John snapped of Cole and me (holding the watch in my hand). Below are pictures along the way, the first at the spot where we began the trek, the second is me at the bank of my grandparents' home (now vacant), and the last is a beautiful natural driftwood sculpture we saw along the way. Tomorrow we will be going down river from Spooner, stopping by to see a cousin who lives on the river and ending our trip at the farm where I grew up. We brought our bikes along, so between bikes and car will manage to get back to our hotel in Spooner at night.