Friday, August 11, 2017

So simple it's complicated

My brother was maybe 12 years old when he bought a used canoe with his lawn-mowing money. He paid something like $50--so, not a great canoe. We lived in Florida a few blocks from a lake, so he and his fishing buddies would carry the canoe down to the lake and come back, sometimes, with a fish or two. It was an easy and harmless way for young guys to burn off their summer energy.

But imagine how much more complicated it would have been if they'd had to take along a horse.

Not in the canoe, of course--what kind of idiot would put a horse in a canoe? But what if the only way you could get to the lake was by horse and buggy? 

This morning we saw three Amish boys--maybe 14 or 15 years old--launching a canoe and two kayaks in a quiet cove at the upper reaches of Salt Fork Lake, and their launch process was considerably more complicated than ours, primarily because we don't travel with horses.

We'd chosen that particular launching place because of its remoteness from civilization; it offered a parking area but no boat ramp, just a grassy spot leading into shallow water. We paddled in the early mist without seeing a soul except one guy fishing from a bridge, and then when we headed back to our launching spot, we saw the two black Amish buggies with two bright blue kayaks and a green canoe strapped on the backs.

We pulled in to shore as they unhitched the horses, and their responded to our greetings by offering to buy our canoe. (Not for sale!) They seemed quietly competent as they took care of their horses, buggies, boats, and fishing gear. We're pretty efficient at strapping the canoe to the top of the van, but by the time we were done, the three Amish boys had silently disappeared in their boats while the horses stood near the woods, sedately chewing.

People like to call the Amish lifestyle "simple," but that feels a little reductive. Paddling a canoe on still water is pretty simple, and fishing from a canoe can be simple unless the fish has a lot of fight. I've never found managing horses simple, but then I wasn't raised alongside them. Strapping canoes to a horse-drawn buggy and driving it down narrow country roads...well, with enough practice it might feel simple enough, but all those simple parts add up to an incredibly complex endeavor. How many 15-year-olds would be able to pull off that feat without breaking a sweat?

And I thought my life was complicated! At least I don't have to take along horses when I canoe. 

Our launch site.

No comments: