Woster: The boat that could hold a friendship

Everyone deserves one or two friends who, when asked if they are up for adventure, answer “You bet.’’ Friends like that make life worthwhile.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

A week left in May, and I am just beginning to think about pulling my boat out of winter storage.

The weather and the river both are favorable. Last weekend, the temperature ran in the upper 70s to low 80s. A light breeze stirred gentle ripples on the water. I saw and heard a lot of boats on the river both weekend days.

Me? I did yard work on Saturday and some writing and indoor chores on Sunday. No question about it. I am growing old.

Time was, back when we lived in Pierre, Nancy and I would have our boat in the water by early May, certainly not later than Mother’s Day weekend, regardless of the weather. Sometimes we observed that Mother’s Day start of boating season in decidedly unseasonable weather, but we got out there.

In those days, of course, we had young kids who would have gone to the river in a blizzard if I had been willing to take them. And we had friends just as wacky about boating as we were. A person has more incentive to hit the river if he has friends who go along without hesitation. Everyone deserves one or two friends who, when asked if they are up for adventure, answer “You bet.’’ Friends like that make life worthwhile.


If I looked through old albums and digital photo files, I would find many images of Dick and Kay, Virge and Carol and Nancy and me in a variety of river scenes, either in our boats or lounging on the beach at Farm Island east of town. If the guy who wrote “Three Musketeers’’ had written about six instead, we could have been the musketeers. For a long while, we were inseparable at the river.

We usually started the boating season at Farm Island because the water warmed quickly there. Along about July, when everybody else crowded the Farm Island water, we would move above Oahe Dam to the big lake. It didn’t matter where we were, if we had water and sand and sun and our friends.

Each of us couples started with small boats, 14- and 15-footers. Over the years, we traded up a time or two, never to monsters, just to boats that generally kept the three couples in the same game. Many of the decisions we made and things we did back then took into serious consideration what each decision or action would mean for the friendship.

The boat we own now? We bought it 20 years ago, back when Nancy was finishing radiation treatments for breast cancer. You could call it a “celebration of success’’ gift. It was for us.

A major consideration, though, as we shopped the boat stores, was to find something that would handle six young-at-heart but aging friends. We found one with a U-shaped back seat, capable of holding four passengers. With the driver and front passenger seats, that meant six of us could be behind the windshield. The boat wasn’t fancy, but it could hold a friendship.

We tried the new boat out as soon as we got home with it. I recall an evening in late July. With the other two couples, we were on Lake Oahe just before sunset. I had Elvis on the disc player. Dick danced on the back platform. The rest of us sang and laughed. We cruised until it was so dark that only the dock light guided us to shore.

The first or second year we had the boat, we were still on the lake skiing on a Sunday afternoon in October. We were pushing the end of the season that time, but we were friends who considered it just one more adventure together.

Kay left us a couple of years ago. Virge and Carol sold their boat in favor of walks by the water. Dick lives on a canal in Fort Pierre, a boat always handy in case grandkids pop by. Nancy and I moved to Chamberlain. Things change.


We made precious memories together on the river for a long time, though. Whenever I do decide to put my boat on the water this summer, I will remember good times and old friends.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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