It was the biggest rubber ducky I’ve ever seen.
The bright yellow behemoth was in the back of a truck, and it must have been at least two-metres tall at the head, and with enough room for three or four people to sprawl out on the rest of it. And it took three or four people to carry it down the path to the river.
Oh, I should mention at this point a whole bunch of the fam-damily got together last weekend – 13 of us, to be exact – for an epic float down the Red Deer River.
Nieces, nephews, cousins, rotten kids and other significants, all gathered on a rare sunny morning on one of the three days this summer it wasn’t raining, pumped up a whole bunch of random brightly colored plastic vessels that we hoped would float, and headed for the East Bridge.
There on the shore, for a while, it was happy chaos as dinghies and doughnuts, inflatable kayaks and the impressive giant rubber ducky were flopped into, onto and sort of hanged onto as we all scrambled to launch some sort of personal flotation device into the chilly waters of the steadily flowing river.
Once on the wide water, the fearless float was on. There were ropes to tie many of the odd crafts together, the obligatory water gun for spraying each other, four gallons of sunscreen, a beach ball to knock back and forth between intrepid sailors, and even some (legal) beverages and snacks in plastic bags.
It was a lovely two hours, bobbing along, laughing and splashing; the giant rubber ducky in the middle of the mayhem, drifting along the tree-lined shores like some sort of silly alien creature going for its first swim. The current carrying all of us along at a nice drifting tempo toward our landing point down river.
And, impressively, not one of us met with any unplanned watery exit from our rubber boats and hardly any of us managed to acquire life-threatening sunburns.
And the family barbecue at the farm afterwards was the perfect way to put an exclamation mark on the end of a memory-making adventure on a beautiful river under a perfect sky, with the people you love to make memories with.
But, on account of the two fishermen, the trip was more than that. It was a confirmation that there’s a ying and yang, up and down, nice people and dipsticks.
Fisherman No. 1 was with a large group of geared-up fish-people on the shore where we launched. They had several expensive canoes packed with the entire outdoor equipment isle from Canadian Tire – fishing rods, tents, camp stoves, TVs, refrigerators (kidding about that last part) and were nattily dressed for some serious outdoor action.
The grumpy head fisherman dude came over to my 18-year-old grandniece, the proud owner of the brand new rubber ducky, and grunted, “You ain’t allowed to take that thing on the water.”
Some dorks just like to try to ruin a person’s day.
Fisherman No. 2 was down river, fishing from a small boat. As our zany entourage drifted practically right into him (dinghies attached to giant rubber ducks are notoriously difficult to steer), we apologized for scaring his fish.
He just laughed and kidded us: “I’m gonna cast and see if I can catch me a big duck!”
Some nice guys just know how to share a nice day.
And, just to prove there is karma, as the last of our silly, splashing flotilla drifted by him, he stood up in his boat, yanked on his fishing rod, and pulled a nice big fish out of the water.
And the giant rubber ducky just smiled right back.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.