The summer was coming to an end soon and the younger of the two eighteen year old women was celebrating her birthday that week. The birthday girl couldn’t have been more please with how this birthday was turning out. They were camping with her family in northeast Oklahoma and her best friend from Seattle had flown down for a couple of weeks. The girls had already driven to Dallas to spend a fun filled day riding the rides at Six Flags and now the camping trip complete with a canoe trip down a river. What a birthday week!
The two girls stood beside the canoe on the bank of the river. This river flowed lazily through the Northeast Oklahoma countryside. This would not be like the white water rafting that the older of the two had done in the Pacific Northwest in the past. Where the water rushed by, churning over the rocks as it made its way from the mountain glaciers to the sea. This was a slow moving flat river with large over-hanging trees and turtles sunning themselves on logs and rocks along the banks. It was as if the river had decided that it was too hot and humid for it to expend the energy to rush along its banks. The older girl could sympathize. It was too hot and too humid to do anything but walk and talk very slowly.
With the canoe resting at their feet, the two argued about who was going to be in the front of the canoe and who would be in the back. The front was not the enviable position. There were dangers inherent in being the one in the front. These dangers were explained to the girls by the man checking out the canoes to the river goers. Stay away from the trees that lined the banks, he warned. These trees were known to harbor snakes, possibly large, probably venomous and certainly slimy snakes. The problem seemed a simple of enough one to solve stated the mid-twenties man that wasn’t near as buff, tan or sexy as the girls would have liked. Stay away from the trees. It seemed simple enough.
After several minutes of intense discussion and negotiating the youngest girl played her final card. She resorted to the “It’s my birthday” friendship clause. It was sneaky and totally beneath her but she felt justified. She did not want to be in the front of the boat. The oldest girl really had no choice after that, “her I’ve flown 2,000 miles just to spend your birthday with you” had been rebuffed with the wave of a hand. Into the front of the boat she climbed. And the two set off down the river.
The voyage down river was peaceful, slow, and lazy. The girls worked on their tans. They paddled occasionally but mostly let the river take them where it willed. In the heat, paddling seemed like too much work so they only did it in order to stay in the middle of the river. They should have known better. They should have been more attentive. They shouldn’t have counted on their 10 year old Girl Scout rowing skills. They should have been a whole lot less cocky. They thought they knew everything. They were teenagers. It was in this lull, this lazy time that tragedy occurred.
To be continued...