My previous blog was about age and stupidity. This blog is just about stupidity. With the Mississippi River so high, I haven’t been paddling at all this spring. Growing impatient, my friend Buzz and I put in at Black Deer to at least get ourselves on the water. Black Deer is a narrow strip of water, really not more than a wide ditch along the eastern shoreline north of the Dresbach lock and dam. By midsummer, Black Deer is so weedy that paddling is difficult and fishing impossible, but in the spring it is a good place for bluegills, perch, and bass. Fishing was not very good that day, so Buzz and I set off exploring, and we wound up at Black Deer’s source – which is a 60-foot culvert. The bow of our canoe just fit into the opening of the culvert, so we laid down in the bottom of the boat and pushed ourselves hand over hand through it. There was a pile of sticks and busted reeds jammed into the far end, and we got stuck. My claustrophobia started to kick in. Fortunately I was able to wriggle forward just enough to get my hands on the end of the culvert. It gave me enough leverage to force us through the flotsam (jetsam?). I cut my fingers on the sharp edge, but we got through. There was nothing on the far side of the culvert that wasn’t on the near side, but we had an interesting backwater all to ourselves.
A few days later, I recounted our little adventure in an email to a friend in New Mexico. She was shocked that I would be so stupid as to enter a culvert. In New Mexico, kids drown in irrigation ditches, and often it is because of a clogged culvert. New Mexico even has a Ditch and Water Safety Task Force with a message of “Ditches are deadly – Stay away. Find safe places to swim and play.” My friend also wrote, “There is actually a scary folktale that is told to keep kids from doing what you did. It is La Llorona.” La Llorona is a centuries-old Mexican legend of a woman who loses her husband to a younger woman and, in her grief, throws her two sons into the river. Because of her actions, she is condemned to wander for eternity until she finds her boys. Today she is so desperate to find her children that she sometimes thinks that kids playing in the irrigation ditches are her long lost sons, and she steals them away.
Here in Wisconsin I don’t have to worry about Llorona. Still what Buzz and I did was a little bit stupid.