A View from Glen Hill: Scooby re-ups for another season

I still love long-distance lake swimming. However, my usual boon companion, Scooby Doo, didn’t venture out on the lake with me earlier this summer because of the high winds that threatened to take him on a much longer and faster ride than I could offer.  But gentler winds have brought him back to his regular job of silent sentinel on my slow swimming trips back and forth between shore and the prominent island on a large lake called Roxbury Pond up here around Andover, Maine where we spend our summers, not far from the much larger Rangeley Lakes and the Canadian border.

Scooby was a surprisingly effective addition to my attempts at a solution to what I initially regarded as a non-problem, as I wrote in a column at around this time last year.  The situation arose from a “non-negotiable request” from the lake’s Campowners Association a half-dozen years ago that a kayaker accompany me on my swims to the island for safety’s sake so that none of my fellow campowners (or visitors to the lake, especially those with Jetskis) would run me over — despite the fact that no one had yet done so in what was then more than three decades of my swimming to the island.

Kayaker volunteers were numerous among my family members in the first blush of implementation of this novel idea. However, rather swiftly their enthusiasm turned to not-so-silent resignation as the monotony of the process (steady, but oh-so-slow...) combined with the persistence of Maine’s famous mosquitoes confronted their lofty intentions with sobering reality. Finally, I wound up towing a kayak myself as I swam — to live within the spirit, if not the specific intent, of the association’s request.

But that towed-kayak solution then prompted newbies to the lake to offer me assistance, assuming that I had fallen out of the kayak “and couldn’t get up.” (I’m of an age where sympathetic younger family members are supposed to be helping me to recognize my need for one of those alerting systems, even though I’m not sure they work in the water). That in turn led to the addition to the towed kayak’s cockpit of that inflatable Scooby Doo, sitting erect with his head permanently cocked in eager anticipation of being part of the action.

As I also mentioned in last year’s column, his addition created an unintended (though not unwelcome) chick magnet with his admirers arriving by both powerboat and Jetski to coo over him. In fact, I can’t begin to count how many “How cute!”s I’ve heard — though definitely not directed at me — but at least they notice the swimmer as well as the ever-smiling dog and don’t run over me.

What has also been rather touching is how many campowners have said, “we always keep an eye on you” even though I assure them that a rescue boat is always only a towline’s length away. I got more appreciation for their concern when I got to pilot briefly a friend’s Jetski for the first (and so far only) time. Man, do those things move! I was across the lake before I knew it in only a few seconds and with only the vaguest appreciation of what was in the water around me. But it was definitely a thrill! So having walked the proverbial mile in the Jetskier’s moccasins — well really, surfer shoes — I understand better the issue.

My initial only slightly disguised resentment was that a lake user who doesn’t pollute the water with motor oil or the air with high-decibel engine noise was the one asked to make the accommodation. Yet, as I suppose most of us my age have come to learn over time, sometimes what seems at the outset to be an aggravation can later turn out to offer its own joys. That’s become true for my towed kayak: I actually enjoy swimming with it now, most of the time — though the return trip from the island in heavy waves can be a race to see which of us, Scooby or me, gets to shore first. In fact, in those conditions I’m usually the loser, and being towed by a kayak is not as much fun as it may sound to the uninitiated.

Anyway, there’s a sense of community about the process, and when I’m sidelined for a while as I was with an eye infection earlier this summer, I found myself being told by more than a few from around here, “We’ve missed seeing you out there.” But then it can be said of Scooby that he builds community everywhere he goes!


Mr. Hudspeth lives, most of the time, on Glen Hill Road.