WOSTER: ‘Yeah, I used to do that’Skiing, like summer, comes to an end for all of us.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I have a friend who always used to say at some point during the Fourth of July holiday, “Well, boys, summer’s about done.”
That was back in the days when he would water ski several times a summer. There was a time, many years ago now, when the group of us who boated together religiously started our ski season on Mother’s Day weekend and didn’t finish until sometime after Labor Day, unless a way-early or way-late blizzard shut us down. In those days, my older friend skied a lot. He tapered off a bit as years went by, but he managed to get in a few runs each summer. Fourth of July was a benchmark. That was about the time every year when the water up on Lake Oahe was warm enough for comfort, so it became a point of pride for my friend to take a run on his skis that weekend, even if it was the first, last and only time he did it all summer.
When you start summer in the middle of May as we used to, it’s pretty natural that you’d reach the Fourth of July holiday, look back at how long you’d been out on the river already that year, and then look ahead at how much time likely remained in the boating season. With that perspective, summer did start winding down after the Fourth of July. We used to fight it, hitting the beaches weekend after weekend through the rest of July and all of August. But the days were growing shorter even as they seemed to grow hotter, and the shadows were starting to stretch more every evening as the sun slanted lower in the sky earlier in the day.
These days, with the vantage point of late middle-age, I don’t look at Fourth of July as the beginning of the end of summer. It’s just a chance to celebrate independence and hang out with family and friends. Summer weekends come and go, some quietly and with certain laziness, some noisily with much commotion, chatter and clatter. Time was, back when my friend skied a lot, a summer weekend spent anywhere but on the Missouri River was more than a wasted two days. It was time stolen, as if a thief had come and hauled away 48 hours of my life, rather than a wedding invitation or a funeral or some other event or ceremony that trumped a day on the boat.
My friend hasn’t skied for a few years, although I make it a point every Fourth of July to offer to give him a tow if he’ll just grab a life jacket and his skis. I can’t remember the last time he made his observation about the end of summer during that weekend, either. These days, if we make it to the end of Saturday — any Saturday — we think we’ve pulled off the late-middle-age equivalent of winning the Olympic decathlon.
None of the old gang skis these days. I was pretty much the last hold-out, and the shoulder replacement back in March made me evaluate the relative joy to be found in 1) sliding across the surface of Lake Oahe on a couple of pieces of wood and 2) having a pain-free right shoulder that moves for the first time in most of three years. I know, I know, no pain, no gain. I went with no pain this time. A nursing friend who lives down the block told me before the surgery that one of the handiest phrases I’d ever use in my post-operative life when faced with a decision on something like waterskiing would be “Yeah, I used to do that.”
It’s Labor Day weekend, and that’s pretty near the end of summer these days. The old gang got together for a couple of days on the river just last weekend. We used kayaks instead of ski boats, and we were careful to select adventures that took us with the current and had us running ahead of the prevailing winds. None of us is getting younger, but we still enjoy our time on the river. Summer may be about done for us, but it isn’t quite — not just yet.