We’ve all heard the line, “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.”
Well, I didn’t exactly ask for it, but when our daughter, Cathy, turned 40, she wanted us to go out for a day in an airboat with her. The day was Jan. 8, 2000. By that day, the Y2K scare was behind us, and we got to go see Cathy on her birthday.
She lived in Central Florida near Lake Hatchineha. Going out in an airboat had always looked like a lot of fun. So, my husband and I agreed to go since it was her 40th birthday and that’s how she wanted to spend it.
The day began very early. We were picked up by 3 guys (Eddie, Buddy and David) who owned three airboats. They took us out for breakfast, long before daylight. Their mode of transportation was a van that had carpeting over all the walls and floor, so seemed a little claustrophobic. This was the beginning of not really knowing what we were doing, but trusted that Cathy did. After all, she is 40 now, and has always been a good judge of situations.
It was still dark out when we got to the house, and all we could see was the light on in the garage. We went in through a kitchen door and immediately saw food stacked everywhere. Stacks of dishes of pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, rolls, toast, fruit, and anything else imaginable for a hungry guest.
We were led to the dining room with a table as big as the room itself, but managed to get the 9 of us around it. By now, not just the 3 guys, but the host and hostess of the house, and Cathy, her husband, Butch, George and me.
From the picture window in that room, I could see the beauty of a dawn just about to break. What a beautiful sight.
Following breakfast, 7 of us got back in the van, out to the dock, and watched as the airboats were put in the water. (Cathy’s husband and the hostess didn’t go that trip because there was not enough room.) It may have been getting light, but the fog was as thick as, yes, you guessed it, pea soup. Before getting on the boat, we had to put ear plugs in our ears. Once there, the ear plugs expanded to keep out all the sound.
We also had to wear a ball cap and put on glasses to protect our eyes from the 50 mph winds. After all, the 3 airboats each had an airplane motor that ran them. When you sit on an airboat, your back is directly against the frame holding the motor.
And, if you think we could talk during our trip, forget it. Often the sound waves were blown away before we could even get the words out. I got to sit in one airboat with Cathy because it had a special seat for two persons. The others had room for only one more person than the driver. So, George was with Buddy, Cathy and I were with Eddie, and David took the man whose wife had just cooked our breakfast.
We didn’t see civilization for the next 8 hours. What we did see, besides 8 hours of water, were wild animals, such as wild hogs and alligators. We went across the big lake and into marshland where the airboats flew over water that was as shallow as one inch.
And they could skip right over the dry land that showed itself once in awhile. It just so happened that hunting season was in at that time. I guess that meant they could shoot birds, because they did. We didn’t, but the guys did. Just when I wondered what would be next, all 3 boats pulled up on a small piece of land and we all got out and posed for a picture.
I had to wear my ball cap backwards and since there was a shotgun in the boat, we posed with it and had our picture taken. It was a cross between what little I have seen of Duck Dynasty and Beverly Hillbillies. (No, that’s not fair to Beverly Hillbillies.)
Just when I thought we ought to be heading for shore soon, one of the other airboats ran out of gas. Being out in the middle of a place called, “Nowhere”, is not where you want to be when you run out of gas. My thinking was that if one boat can run out of gas, what about the others? But, not to worry. (I think that’s what Cathy was trying to tell me over all the noise.)
The boat that George was in, pulled the other boat all the way back to civilization. We followed and made it just fine. After quick trips to the restroom, which we hadn’t seen all day, they loaded up the airboats at the dock.
By then the sun was going down and it was suppertime. We got back in the van and were taken back to that same house, and went back in that same kitchen that had stacks of food everywhere. This time there were stacks of chicken, dishes of corn and pasta, plates of biscuits, sweet tea and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
It was great. After all, we were safely on land, we had wonderful food, and Cathy loved every minute of her new adventure. And, no matter what the age, isn’t that what all parents want to see?
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.