In the early 1970’s I loaded my canoe on top of my car and
drove to a lake in northeast Texas. It
was called Lake Texarkana at the time I was there, but about a year later the
name was changed to Wright Patman Lake.
A rose by any other name. I was
seeking a couple of days of solitude away from the endless business meetings of
corporate life, and I thought exploring a lake I hadn’t seen before was just
the thing for me.
The trip was an uneventful few hours as I drove the 190
miles from my home to Douglassville where I rented a room as my base of
operations. Since I had left my home at
about 3am I had plenty of time to drive on over to the lake and launch my
canoe, and long before noon I was well out on the water. The idea was to simply explore, but I had
brought with me some basic fishing equipment just in case a likely spot
I paddled along the shoreline for about an hour as I soaked
in the solitude and warm sun. I found
myself getting sleepy and decided to drop my anchor and do some “fishing” while
taking a nap. Best laid plans. I dropped my line in the water, settled down
in the bottom of the canoe where I could stretch out and lean back against the
seat, and promptly fell asleep.
While the nap was not unexpected, the next thing to happen
was a shock. I was awakened by the game
warden. He had drifted his boat up
beside me to check on what appeared to him to be an empty canoe, but instead he
thought he had found a body. We were
both relieved there was no lifeless body in my canoe, and he understood my
explanation of seeking solitude from the rat race I lived in. He had the opposite problem. He sometimes drove into Texarkana just to be
Since it was nearly 6pm he offered to tow me back to where I
had launched my canoe, and I accepted.
I guess I had been asleep for about 3 or 4 hours when he awakened me,
and I was acutely aware that my skin was quite burned. If I had tried to paddle back to the launch
area, I may not have made it.
That night I visited a store where I could load up on baby
oil, skin cream, and aspirin. I hadn’t
been sunburned since I was a kid, and I was not overly fond of what I was
feeling. I was able to lie flat on my
back to try to sleep, but any movement make my skin feel like old brittle
cellophane being crushed into a ball.
Not fun. The next morning I
loaded up my things and drove home.
Have you ever had a sunburn? I believe I had rather have endless leg cramps. Even worse is the aftermath as the skin
tries to repair itself. I had to return
to the job of wearing a suit every day and giving presentations in different
cities almost every day. Burning,
itching, peeling skin looks almost as bad as it feels, and having to travel
around the country gave me very little time to try to solve the problem.
About six or seven weeks later I thought I was repaired and
ready enough to go back to the lake to finish what I had started. I wanted to explore this big lake, and this
time I did not take either the fishing equipment or the canoe. I decided to take along an old friend and
rent a boat.
Mike and I were out on the lake about 7am and were well
prepared with extra fuel, water, lunch, and a huge pile of snacks. We motored for a few hours exploring,
snacking, and reminiscing our childhood.
We had had many adventures together as kids, and we were actually
reconnecting after a few years apart.
About 1pm we found a spot near the shore where we could drop anchor and
have lunch. And a nap. A long nap.
Mike woke me up, and I remember looking at the reddest
person I had ever seen. Then the pain
hit me. Not only had I done it again,
but this time I had inflicted the pain on my friend as well.
The sun was going down as we finally returned to the boat
landing. The manager of the boathouse
said we should see a doctor. I think he
was right, but we didn’t listen. We
spent the night bathing our skins in various oils and lotions, and attempting
to cool off. Nothing worked. Needless to say a second day exploring the
lake was out of the question for both of us.
We returned home and dealt with our problems in our own
ways. I saw Mike a couple of weeks
later, and he was beginning to heal reasonably well. But I was still ultra sensitive to the touch. In fact, my new skin from the first burn was
not fully developed before the second burn occurred. For about six months afterward I found it difficult to go outside
during the daytime without experiencing physical pain. And for almost a year my skin had a pink to
light red cast to it. To make matters
worse, I spent much of the next year in Spain where the hot sun is a way of
I know you are thinking, “Why didn’t you wear
sunscreen?” But to be honest, I didn’t
really know about it. I had heard of
suntan lotions; however, I thought that suntan lotions were only for getting a
suntan. Live and learn. And it’s a lesson I don’t want to learn