The skills I learned growing up are the skills that help me do my job today. Photo by: Geremy Olson
Learning to fish and live life.
by Geremy Olson
You never know when that moment will come, but when it does are you ready?
WayPoint: When it’s time to act, be informed with facts, knowing the positive and negative potential of your actions. When you make your decision, act with decisiveness and without apology.
As I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in a canoe; I mean a lot of time in a canoe. Looking back through photo albums I was in a canoe before I could walk. Up until a couple years back a canoe was the only watercraft I ever owned.
As I grew up with a canoe, I learned all the safety features it has when maintained properly. Part of that education was putting them to the test with my dad on the big water in windy North Dakota. One of my favorite activities until I got too heavy, was to sit on the bow of the canoe with a tether to the canoe. Dad would steer into the waves and I would try my hardest to stay on. As I got older, we would swamp the canoe over and see how many people it would hold while it was full of water. The answer to that question was seventeen junior high school boys.
As I grew up and got stronger, I learned how to upright a canoe and get most of the water out without being able to touch the bottom of lake. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like fun, you would be right. Jumping out of a canoe and getting back in without flipping it was a skill I enjoyed learning on hot summer days.
Along with all this canoe training also came basic life-saving skills that everyone that hits the water should know.
“Reach, throw, row, go, let’s say it again, reach, throw, row, go.”
If you haven’t heard this mantra before it goes like this: when someone needs help in the water human instinct is to jump in the water and go save them. This is where all of the sad stories of rescuers becoming victims come from. Unless you are trained in water rescue and are in shape, you probably will have a bad outcome.
If someone is in trouble on the water, you first try to reach with what you have at hand to pull them in. If reaching doesn’t work then you throw something to them. If throwing doesn’t work then row, paddle or drive out to them. Only as a last resort do you jump in to go to them.
One hot summer day I was loading my canoe on the truck with my dad when it dawned on me; I had a decision to make, go on my way or do what my gut said I needed to do. We were late for something and were in a hurry to get loaded up. I can’t remember what it was, to be honest, we were just in a hurry. As I looked around no one cared about what was going on out on the water. I remember asking myself, “what if I’m wrong?” But I was taught to do what is right no matter the cost.
I looked at my dad, at the age of 14, and gave him an order, “untie the canoe.” I said it with authority and determination.
To my amazement dad complied and in hindsight he never asked why, he asked, “what do I need to do.” I told him to grab two extra life jackets and a throw rope and we started paddling to the middle of the lake. When we got to the two college-aged guys that had swamped their canoe without life jackets or proper floatation in the craft, they were starting to sink under water.
As we approached them we called out to get their attention. Then when we got close we tossed them each a life jacket talked them through putting it on. When they were calmed down we threw them a rope and towed them in to shore. After they were on shore they were shaking as they shared how they only had a few minutes left in them and they wouldn’t have made it if we didn’t come when we did. Their girlfriends thought they were just playing around, and were shocked that they were in real trouble.
We missed whatever we were in a hurry to get to, but that didn’t matter. What matters is that when a decision needed to be made that day, I made it based on all the information I had been taught growing up and what I saw on the water that day. The result was the two college guys in the water got to live another day. For me the result was I learned my dad trusted me to do what was right when it was needed.
When it’s time to act, be informed with facts, knowing the positive and negative potential of your actions. When you make your decision, act with decisiveness and without apology.
(Geremy Olson grew up in the outdoors. After being burned as a volunteer firefighter, he had to figure out how to teach outdoor skills to his children from a wheelchair while learning to walk. Today he is an inspirational speaker, Fellowship of Christian Athletes North Dakota Coordinator, ND AIM Tournament Director, Outdoorsman, Producer, Wildfire Consultant & Public Speaker (GOspeaks.live) He is also the proud father of the owners of Missouri Secrets Tackle.)