My wife’s cousin was visiting us, and we decided to treat him to a unique Florida experience: canoeing down the Juniper run.
When I told the cousin we were going to go canoeing, he responded he needed to purchase “boating” shoes—“You know, the shoes that have soles with little lines in them.” Although I had no idea what he was talking about, we went shopping for boating shoes.
In store after store, when we explained what we were searching for, people would shake their heads in bewilderment. Finally, a clerk exclaimed, “What you are looking for are Sperry Top-Siders and we have them in stock.” Thirty bucks later, the cousin was properly equipped for the following day’s canoe trip.
Juniper Run is a narrow, clear, stream running seven miles from Juniper Springs to a wayside park. You rent a canoe at the springs and for a fee, the concessionaire will have someone transport you and the canoe back from the park. A great way to spend a hot afternoon: that is if you are a canoe and out-door person. Which, when he insisted upon purchasing boat shoes, I should have known my wife’s relative wasn’t.
With me steering in the rear, my wife paddling in the front and her cousin sitting in the middle, we began our canoe journey down the Juniper Run. It was an Idyllic trip until our guest panicked when he saw an alligator. After calming his fears, I explained we were making good time and before any gator noticed us we would be down the stream; besides, alligators didn’t want anything to do with us; it was snakes I feared—a comment I would later regret.
About halfway down the run, not paying attention while vigilantly on the watch for gators and snakes, jumped when hit by a limb, tipping the canoe over. His first thought was to get to land, so he headed towards the bank of the stream. As he was grabbing the underbrush to pull himself out of the water, he remembered my comment about snakes. With a scream, he let go and drifted to the center of the run, where the water was too deep for him to stand, and we discovered he didn’t know how to swim.
The canoe was traveling away from us with the current, and holding the cousin’s head above the water, I couldn’t catch it, so my wife was left to try and slow it down. When I would attempt to maneuver the cousin to shallower water, he would scream about snakes and determining drowning was preferable to being snake bit, head back into deeper water.
Eventually, the front of the canoe got caught on a limb and—without the new boating shoes, now somewhere on the bottom of the stream—we managed to shove the cousin into the boat and continue our voyage. With our passenger huddled down low to avoid any overhanging limbs, we made good progress, until a thunderstorm, bringing lightning, thunder and torrential rain, broke.
When the man sent by the concessionaire to pick us up finally appeared—he had been delayed for an hour by the storm, leaving us to freeze in the rain—he found us trying to appease a tired, wet, cold, angry and barefoot relative.
That trip down the Juniper Run taught me a valuable lesson—because you like something, doesn’t mean someone else will. I didn’t ask my wife’s cousin if he wanted to go on a canoe trip; I took if for granted he would, and I ignored the signs—such as purchasing “Boat” shoes—that he wasn’t accustomed to nature adventures. Fortunately, he got over it and our relationship was not damaged—in fact, it became a great family story that gets more dramatic with every telling.
“You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” -Denis Waitley