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A Kickapoogian thinks about her river
Em and Chasca on the Wisco
EM AND CHASCA, before launching into parenthood, took a day to enjoy being out on another favorite river of theirs – the mighty Wisconsin river.

GAYS MILLS - Over the weekend, I read this bizarre news account of a woman who was canoeing the Kickapoo on the popular stretch near Ontario. The story claimed the woman, who is local to the area became separated from her party and ‘stranded’ on the banks of the river. She was found by a DNR warden at 6 p.m. after the warden heard her calling for help. 

The story had elicited a lot of ‘shares’ and social media, but also, some criticism. Many folks were baffled that on a sunny weekend afternoon, when the Kickapoo is bumper-to-bumper traffic, that she saw no one for the entire time? I have to say it seems wild to think not a soul paddled past her–but who knows. 

It did get me thinking about the times I had taken to the river. Which, I must say, at this point, has been a couple of years. 

I didn’t exactly grow up canoeing or kayaking like many Kickapoogians. I had spent plenty of time in and out of the Kickapoo River, but the only paddling I was doing was the doggy paddle. I’ve always loved to swim its murky waters, kicking around and laughing with friends. 

So, I was probably about 19, I think, the first time I actually got in a canoe with the idea of conquering the mighty and winding Kickapoo. 

I had been living in Madison at the time and my then boyfriend, a friend of ours from ‘back home’ and a gaggle of our city friends all decided we would camp at the friend’s family land and take an afternoon excursion on the river. 

I, like any 19 year old wanted to appear cool and confident, so I never led on that I hadn’t spent much time in a canoe. Or really, that the only canoe ride I had ever taken was across a Northern Wisconsin lake, and that canoe had a zippy little motor–and I found it terrifying. But, I digress...

This whole memory feels like an entire lifetime ago, now that I reflect on it. I don’t remember where our canoes came from or what bridges we went through. 

I do remember I had to sit in the back though and do the steering, which was a questionable decision. 

One of my friends took to drinking beers early on in the trip and was quickly overpowered by them. He saw a gaggle of people partying ashore and immediately decided, boat still in motion, that he would join them. 

He stood up and went to step out of his canoe as though, he too could walk on water. It was a rude awakening for him and his partner when he figured out all he could do was tip a canoe. The party on the beach rejoiced and squealed with delight over this scene, As beer cans and all the accessories in their boat swiftly escaped their clutches and made their way down the Kickapoo.

We all managed to make it out of the river alive and in once piece–but with a lot less gear. The same guy ended up tipping two more canoes. He just never really caught on to the whole sitting down and enjoying the ride part of things. 

Taking a canoe trip with Chasca in our pre-kid days proved to be a much more enjoyable experience. We once went with my friend Steve who took pleasure in doing all of the paddling. 

We also some how acquired a gigantic pink inflatable chair, which I wedged in the middle of the boat. I was not only riding in style but in complete comfort. I felt like the Kickapoo Queen. 

Steve, being a bit of a wild card, also took the trip on a traditionally busy Saturday to practice his budding interest in Mongolian Throat Singing–as well as a Ray Steven’s style of clucking like a chicken to a delightful melody. This proved to be probably the most interesting and entertaining trip I’ve had. Nothing makes friends like the combination of bizarre throat singing and chicken clucking on the Kickapoo. 

We’ve only ever taken Thatcher one time on the river. He was only…two months old, barely? It was somewhat of a questionable decision, for a baby most certainly hates wearing a life vest. We anticipated him sleeping the entire time, but he really just wanted to nurse. He was hot and ornery and we only lasted a few bridges before we abandoned ship at the nearest landing. 

I think now however, he would enjoy all of the sights, sounds and excitement a trip on the river can offer. Maybe he and I could rent a kayak one day and take a trip–at least once before the snow flies.