This post is the second part – the first part is here: enjoy!
Paddle strokes and technique occupied a little over an hour. There were three main strokes taught and practiced. Each member was evaluated, and Eamon was able to get a good feel for the relative strengths of each.
The first of the water safety exercises was gunnel bobbing. Each pair paddled their canoe out into waist high water, and without tipping, maneuvered so that they stood face to face on opposite ends of the canoe with their feet on the gunnels. The object once that balance was achieved was to bob the canoe ends in opposition without tipping, or falling off. An activity that was much easier said than done, since the balance of skill worked out so that the larger team members ended up matched with smaller members.
The point of the exercise according to Eamon was for each pair to get a feel for the balance and weight of their craft along with their partner’s movements. What ever it was supposed to accomplish, for all but Sheila, who was the lightest and smallest, and whose skills were weakest it was a hilariously fun activity.
Of course it made sense that she was paired with the member with the strongest skills, and that was Eamon. He also happened to be the largest and heaviest, so her challenge was more than her nerves. And her nerves were on edge for more reasons than her lack of comfort on the water.
“Come on Canuk, tuck that butt in! Keep your weight on your toes. Use your quads. Come on head up, eyes front. Use your arms for balance not your rear! Come on, tuck your butt under! ” Eamon repeated this series of short commands in various combinations at least 50 times over the next 20 minutes. All in all they both spent more time in the water than on it, although Sheila was finally able to find some balance, and they were able to bob for the 25 strokes Eamon asked of each team.
By the time they’d done it though Sheila was fuming mad. Being the brunt of jokes was not something she appreciated. She was a good player, and she loved good fun when she was in the middle of it, but that afternoon, at least for those twenty minutes she’d been more the joke than the joker. For his role in putting her there, Eamon’s hide was quickly accumulating gouges in her mind. If she’d been near enough to him the last time she hit the water with her legs flat, she might well have used her nails to remove a few rakes of flesh from his skin. The backs of her legs were flaming red from all the slap hard impacts she had made with the smooth surface of the lake.
The next challenge was physically almost as hard, but for Sheila it was the worst. Out in deep water, the teams set about deliberately tipping, rolling and then righting and reentering their canoes. There was almost no way to do this without becoming fully immersed in the water, and Eamon seemed to make a game out of hefting his weight, so that she was under before she felt or could anticipate the movement. When he started to tip them almost as soon as she was back on board, before she could really get her bearings, the whiner and the crybaby began to fight her for control of her mind and body.
The possibility that the crybaby was going to win became all too real, and finally when her eyes and nose burned with water forced into them by another unexpected submersion, Sheila came up fighting mad.
“You sorry mother fucking son of a bitch! Would you at least let me catch my breath and get the water out of my eyes so I can focus and see the God damned mother fucking water before you do that again!” she screamed. “God Damned ham brained jock ass hole!”
Eamon had been working to get a reaction out of her. He could tell she was less than comfortable on the water, and part of his strategy, although not all of it, was to get her physically tired and mentally distracted enough that she’d let go of her fears. He certainly did manage to distract her from her fears. When he burst out laughing, Sheila turned, and started swimming for shore.
It was too far for her to make it as tired as she was, but Eamon was relatively sure she’d be OK until he could retrieve the paddles and follow her. When he did reach her, Sheila was shivering, and running out of steam. The bow of the canoe passed her on the right, and then the end with Eamon in it steadied and kept with her pace.
“Up you get now. In the boat,” Eamon chuckled.
“Leave m-m-me alon-n-nnnn!” Sheila spit into the water, her jaw shuddered around her chattering teeth. Eamon could see as her strokes became shorter, that she was winded, and would not last much longer before she might start to cramp up. Her lips were blue also, letting him know her blood flow was starting to shunt to conserve heat.
“In the boat now! No argument!” Eamon’s voice boomed, the authority in it designed to pre-empt any further stupidity.
For an instant, as Sheila whirled around in the water so she could look at him directly, she contemplated defiance. His expression and her absolute fatigue won out though, and she relented. She was going to get in the boat under her own steam though, and when Eamon reached to help her, she pulled her arm away.
“I c-c-can d-do it-t-t!” she stuttered, and she caught the side to pull up. It was her turn to tip the balance though, since Eamon was leaning toward her. Her weight with his worked to launch the canoe out from under him. Eamon fell in, and Sheila ended up surfacing under the overturned canoe.
She giggled just a little, but the cold made her refocus quickly. Eamon got the canoe upright, and himself back in it, in just a minute or so. Twice more Sheila’s clumsy efforts tipped it again. Ordinarily, turn about would be fair play, but at this stage of the game, the humor and novelty was being lost on her completely. After she refused his help for a fourth time, and her heavy muscled efforts threatened to tip them again, Eamon interceded. As Sheila’s shoulders cleared the gunnel, Eamon reached down and grabbed the butt of her swim suit, and heaved her onto the floor of the canoe at his feet. He had to shift his weight quickly a few times to maintain balance, but this time the craft stayed upright.
Sheila grumbled and cussed under her breath. The whole experience had been enough stress, that she barely reacted to the intimate handling, the wedgie and the somewhat embarrassing exposure that Eamon’s maneuver produced. She concentrated on righting herself, and trying to control the now vigorous shivering and tooth chattering that her body was doing.
They made their way back to shore. Sheila managed to utter a few choice expressions through the tension of her shuddering jaw; otherwise there was silence between them until they got to shore.
“I think you’re going to need to keep a life vest on for most of the trip Sheila,” Eamon announced as she helped him lift the canoe over to the racks.
“N- n- n-oo f-f-f-fuckk-k-k-ing w-w-ay!” Sheila stuttered. “I d-did the sw-wim! I kn-now-w the rul-l-lessss!”
“May be, but you don’t have the confidence in the water that you’ll need if we do capsize in the rough.” Eamon tried to reason.
“L-l-l-loook-k you assss h-h-olllle! You del-l-l-libbberat-t-tlllly jerkkked m-m-m-e aroundddd outtt t-t-there! I’ll bbbbe j-j-j-ust f-f-fine!” Sheila dropped her end of the canoe, and turned on him, her hands on her hips. Her movement was too fast, and she stumbled sideways. That caused Eamon to drop his end also, only his tipped and landed square on his instep.
“God Damn!” he exclaimed, and to keep from falling, he hopped off to the side. Pain from the sharp heavy impact of the hard metal gunnel shot through him. It was all he could do to hold in a blood curdling scream.
At first Sheila was concerned, but in only a few seconds she was overcome by laughter. In another few seconds, she was doubled over rolling in the rugged grass, her sides aching from a combination of laughter and shivering.
Her team mates gathered around, and joined in the laughter, at the same time as the helped Eamon stow the canoe, and Sheila get to her feet.
The next day when they set out, Sheila and Eamon’s interactions had deteriorated to short commands and surly retorts. If their moods weren’t bad enough, the weather turned warm, and the wind dropped to nothing. Mosquitoes, gnats and the lingering black flies were torment any time the group neared shore. Since there were three portages, and only one stretch of open lake on the first leg of their route, the torment was more or less constant.
The first discussion centered on whether Sheila would be required to wear a life vest when they reached white water after lunch. It became somewhat heated, and Sheila was glad she was in front, and by necessity had to carry on her side of it with her back to Eamon. While she sensed that she was pushing buttons, she could not see his reactions. It was a very good thing, she thought, that he could not see her expressions. Distain, only barely approached an apt description for what they would have conveyed, if he could have seen them.
That subject closed with the final outcome unresolved. Eamon decided she would wear the vest, and Sheila decided hell would freeze first.
The next revolved around Sheila taking the rear on the next paddle. She was adamant that she was not ready. Things might not have escalated the way they did if she’d actually come out and said that. As it was, she conveyed her reluctance with flip comments and sarcasm. Most of her remarks centering on his size, thick jock ham brain, and some other less than flattering descriptors.
Behind her, Eamon was fast reaching his limit. It was one thing for team members to joke and tease, but the little brat in front of him was well past that into outright defiance. She would have to learn to do as she was told, if not for her grade, then for the safety and progress of the team. A number of options to force obedience and compliance with his authority were cycling in his mind. One of them was to come down on her publicly with thunder and rage, and make damned sure she understood that she may well be repeating this course next year if she didn’t smarten up and shape up. The other was less direct, but definitely more demonstrative and physically satisfactory. He would like nothing more than to bare her boney little ass, and flip her over his knee for a paddling she’d never forget. Every cuss and comment that she made over the next two hours, made that prospect more and more attractive.
When they lifted out for the second portage, Eamon was fuming. There was brief discussion about lunch, and the decision was made to have it in the water on the other end of the hike. It would only be four miles.
Eamon and Sheila pulled up the rear. Their relative difference in size obligated Eamon to carry the front so that he could see a head of them from under the canoe. Just a mile into the trek, the subject of position on the next paddle came up again. There would be some white water, but it was only class 2 to 3. Eamon was adamant that Sheila should take the rear. That she could handle the steering if she’d keep her mind on the strokes instead of her fear of the water.
Something about the patronizing way he talked about this whole thing being about her fear of water hit Sheila’s last patience nerve and she lost it.
“Look you mother fucking shit for brains jock! I told you no and I mean no!” she screeched. As she did, she stopped short, lifted, and then heaved her end of the canoe onto the ground.
That action occurred so quickly, that Eamon could not react. He took two more steps forward, while the canoe dropped behind him and came to an abrupt stop. As Sheila watched the chain reaction, she was amazed that his head was still on when his shoulders appeared from under the canoe.
The look of black burning rage in his eyes was instantly terrifying. Sheila didn’t have time to fully appreciate the shock of electric arousal that pulsed through her. She felt it, and reacted to it in a split second after she saw Eamon’s face, his torso shift, and his hands reach for his belt.
“Oh Shit!! She squealed, and she took off at a dead run back the way they’d just come.
She didn’t get very far, when Eamon was on top of her, and she was falling over a dead tree that crossed the path. His belt lit a line of fire through her denim shorts. Several licks whipped into her, before Sheila was able to catch her breath and cry out for him to stop.
Eamon whipped her furiously a good thirty or forty licks. Sheila was sure she had never felt anything so painful in her entire life. As angry and afraid as she’d been only moments before, now she was only aware of the flaming stripes the belt put into her, and how desperately she needed to get away from it. A couple of the licks branded her bare legs, but most set fire to her butt.
“Oh God help me! Stop!” she screamed.
Thankfully, Eamon did. “Are you going to do what you’re told?” he asked her.
“OK! I will!” Sheila promised.
“Alright! Get up!” Eamon stepped back, and started to put his belt back on.
When Sheila stood up, she backed away, and eyed Eamon warily. She saw the blood oozing from a gash just below his hairline. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean that!” she whispered.
“Oh I’m sure you didn’t,” Eamon growled, “And you’d better not try anything like it again.”
“OK,” Sheila nodded. There was absolutely no remnant of the anger or animosity she’d been feeling. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was feeling, but for some reason the words second chance came to her mind.
As it turned out, that thought was an understatement. The relationship between the two calmed almost immediately. Incredibly there was no uneasy truce either; instead there was an almost immediate understanding and recognition. What had made it so easy to get on each other’s nerves turned out to be a connection that would ultimately result in their lifelong partnership. Eamon and Sheila would marry only 11 months to the day after this event.
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