I was by myself that afternoon, because I’ve pretty much hunted alone ever since my mom, who was my hunting partner, died in 2006. I really wanted to get to this remote deer spot, about 31⁄2 miles downstream, but the shore was icy and the water high and fast. Despite the conditions, I launched anyway.
Everything was fine for an hour, until I hit some rapids. I thought I could make it through, but as I paddled, the canoe got caught on a big rock. The current pushed the boat sideways, and waves started coming over the side. Then, suddenly, the canoe flipped, dumping me into the icy water. I panicked. The river was so cold I couldn’t catch my breath. Please help me out of this, Mom, I thought.
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As I was being swept downriver, I instinctively grabbed my dry box and clipped it to my life jacket. The current was pulling me right toward a waterfall. But, luckily, I saw some boulders ahead. As I passed by, I heaved myself onto one—and then clung to it for dear life. I had floated about a half mile and was totally exhausted. I was also now stuck in the middle of the river. I started to freak out, but then I remembered that I’d put my cellphone in the dry box. I called 911, and it took rescuers a half hour to reach me. Then I had to wait until they could bring a boat out to me. Three hours after I’d fallen in, they finally got me out and to the hospital. I’m glad I thought to wear a life jacket and bring a dry box, but I wouldn’t have made it home had my mom not been looking out for me.
—As told to Joe Albert