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Life is like a … Ozark float trip

A great American once said in a movie that &#8220… life is like a box of chocolates.” While I might agree with Forrest Gump, I’d say it’s also a lot like a July float trip on an Ozark river.

&#8220Life’s Lessons Learned on the Float Stream,” that could be the name of my next (or first in this case) best-selling book. It could be a sequel to my earlier coffee table book idea, titled &#8220Human Abnormalities Found at the Beach”. Whatever the title, it’s a fact that a lot of knowledge and wisdom can be gained while floating down an Ozark stream on a hot day.

Lesson #1 … Be prepared to divert younger floaters’ attention away from offensive or questionable behavior of others. This past Saturday found my family taking in a float trip with friends. The stage was set when we arrived at the river’s edge, along with about 50 other floaters. Immediately some in our party became keenly aware that a strange man standing in the edge of the stream was &#8220noticeably” pleased about something. Whether it was the scantily-clad females scattered about, some strangely adverse reaction to the cold spring water, or perhaps he was just extremely glad to see us … we didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. What mattered was diverting the attention of the younger floaters in our party to more wholesome activities – life jackets on and secured tightly, snack coolers tethered firmly to the rafts, plenty of sunblock, etc.

Lesson learned … Adults should always remain alert and on the watch for anything that could cause children to grow up and become knowledgable about certain subjects before their time. Kids should be allowed to be kids and not be encumbered with adult ideas and information until absolutely necessary. Improper information can sometimes pop out of the television, the Internet, and the mouths of &#8220black sheep” relatives at family get togethers. The same holds true for anytime your floating and near a group of rowdies and hear the phrase yelled &#8220Show me your …!” &#8220Look this way, right now,” is the proper response a parent should yell at the kids until the ‘danger’ passes.

Lesson #2 … Mother Nature, even when virtually violated by thousands of alcohol-saturated city slickers hitting and bouncing off rocks and root wads as they fumble and bumble down the stream, still offers moments of serene beauty and &#8220wild” lessons to be observed and learned from.

Last Saturday, while floating a popular stretch of Current River, we saw several otters, a beaver, a snake, two cranes, assorted unidentified small birds, and fish including gar, suckers and carp, as well as minnows and crawdads. On the ride away from the river after the float we observed several deer standing in fields and one lone coyote in plain view. It always amazes me how a stream can continue to look so &#8220wild” and untouched despite the trashing, urinating, aluminum can tossing, and other violations humans impose on it.

Lesson learned … We should strive to learn how to take the junk life dishes out to us without letting it tarnish us permanently. If we flood enough good things through our life from time to time it has the ability to flush away the trash that sometime lingers after some less-than-ideal experiences.

Lesson #3 … People come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s okay. The vast majority of us will never grace the covers of Elle or GQ. Finding a swimsuit model floating on an Ozark stream is like finding a mile-long strech of river without a beer can or pair of sunglasses lying on the bottom. A few years ago, a few readers might recall, I did a feature story for the Journal about a Missouri nudist colony celebrating their 50th anniversary. The assignment, which I agreed to just for fun, was to visit the &#8220nudie camp” and report on their upcoming weekend celebration. Long story short, the only way my wife agreed for me to do the story was if she could along with me. I was there to do a serious story … she, I reason, was just there to gawk!

Anyway, we visited the 40 Acre Club and I took some photos and notes and were given the full tour by two nice ladies. We met a lot of very interesting, albeit totally naked, resort members that day. It was a &#8220come as you are, no tan lines, no judgement by the kind of clothes you wear” kind of place. The rule at such places is &#8220when in Rome, do as the Romans” … but we weren’t in Rome, darling, we were in Franklin County. We wore all our clothes, and I kept my dark sunglasses on for the first hour we were there. As we left the front gate we made several observations back and forth between the two of us.

Lesson learned … While we’re not &#8220skin to the wind” kind of people, those who are must be thick skinned enough to accept the fact they might not necessarily look like Hallie Berry or Tom Cruise in their birthday suit. The same holds true for enjoying a summer float trip. Most folks aren’t there to scout for modeling agencies, so just adequetly cover the essentials and relax and have a good time.

Here’s hoping you have a good float season.

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