Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Brazos River Expedition

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” -Deut. 31:6 I grew up in a tremendous “kid-friendly” neighborhood in west Fort Worth. Back then, we were on the outer rim of the city limits, so to the north and west of our neighborhood were creeks and woods and fun. We built forts, dammed up streams and had a blast. We caught all kinds of wildlife and brought a lot of it home to our shocked mothers. I grew up in a day when parents were willing to let their kids risk both adventure and fun. In these days of increased liability and too much knowledge, we need to be careful to let our kids explore and get dirty. In the summer of 1970, in 6th grade, my best friends, Joe Paget, Bill Adams and I had the great idea to build a raft and float it down the Brazos river. The Brazos is a river that flows through north central Texas all the way to the Texas coast. We had all been canoeing on the river before and were convinced that we could pull off the great adventure. So, the three of us met at our unofficial headquarters in Joe Paget’s garage, and we went to work. Today, most projects like this would end at the beginning. “It’s too dangerous. It’s too risky. You’re too young.” But our parents left us alone and let us design the raft and pick the route we would float on the river. I’m sure our parents were more than involved than we realized. But we felt like the project was ours. And that’s the point. Our parents let us do the work. Then, we went and bought the materials necessary to build the raft. None of us could drive, so I remember my mom taking us to a hardware store and to a tire shop to get the huge inner tubes necessary to float the raft. I remember we scraped our nickels and dimes together to buy the materials. Our parents didn’t mail order the raft or hire an expert in raft building. We built it ourselves. It was rather “scrappy,” as I recall, but it was ours. We loaded the raft on top of Joe Paget’s mom’s station wagon and off we went to the Brazos, about an hour drive. Our moms had fixed us meals for the day and we had a map and route all planned. We were dropped off that morning and were to be picked up that evening down stream at a bridge site. As we drifted down the river, I remember being half scared and half excited. All was going well and on time, until the wind picked up and the rather heavy raft sat motionless. We figured that the current would move us along, but before long, we had to pull the raft using ropes on the bank. And, to add to the difficulty, a couple of the inner tubes we used for flotation began losing air. We did stop to eat some sandwiches, but we finally arrived to our arrival site later than expected, tired, sore and so relieved to see Mrs. Paget waiting for us. We lifted the raft back on top of the station wagon and made the trip back to Fort Worth. The expedition had been a success, sort of. We had succeeded in our mission, but the raft took a battering. It sat in Joe Paget’s yard for years, until it finally fell apart. It was a reminder to us that sometimes projects are worth doing just to do them. We all need hills to climb and rivers to float. In the video game and sports crazed world we live in today, encourage your kids to explore, build and risk. Be careful not to hold onto them too tightly. I spoke to Joe Paget about that trip not too long ago. He told me he now runs a marina on Lake Palo Pinto, not far from that stretch of the Brazos where we went that day. He said, “I can’t believe our parents let us go on that trip.” Without knowing it, we were learning lessons about risk and difficulty and about trusting God to provide strength in the trials. Thank you, moms and dads, for letting us be on our own. Thank you for letting us grow up a little that day. Thank you for letting us take a risk that we might come out successful, whether we succeeded or not. Thank you for believing in us. And thank you for loving us enough to let us go… …on the expedition called life. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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