One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Miss Shapen With the Wow in Her Bow
With the wow in her bow, Miss Shapen was a good little boat. She wasn’t pretty much good for pretty, but she was pretty much good for stout. That’s the way she came together. It wasn’t planned; it just happened. Being constructed by two novice builders with no written plans or experience, she came into being to fill a need—sleep upside down in the backyard from midnight Saturday to 5 p.m. Friday and then rides on top of the old Nash Rambler down the highway to Swanson River. She’d then provide transportation for her builders from fishing hole to fishing hole.
Had Miss Shapen been a people instead of a boat, she would have known something was different when she was awakened late one Monday evening in late August. There was more than just a nip in the air. There was a kind of excitement.
Once on the river, even though it was nearly dark, Miss Shapen was loaded for the trip to camp, and this time her load included food for a week and rifles along with the customary fishing gear.
Having negotiated the river numerous times over the summer, we felt no fear in heading upriver on this cloudy evening with darkness rapidly slipping toward us. We could tell it had been raining, but for now, it was just high clouds, no rain.
Usually, we were in a hurry to get upriver, set up camp, and get to fishing, but not this trip. We were moose hunting and knew there would be no hunting until daylight the following morning, so we just puttered along.
When we started up the river, we could see a full moon trying to force its light through the high thinning clouds. When we reached the first set of rocks, the clouds disappeared around the moon, and moonlight quickly brightened the area we were traveling.
Above the first set of rocks is the only long, narrow stretch of water on the Swanson. It was here that the aurora joined the celestial light show. Frank, sitting on the wow in the bow, brought out his harmonica and began playing familiar tunes, mostly old-style hymns.
We putted along with the glory of the moon, stars, and northern lights, accompanied by Frank’s music, keeping us deep in thought. As the river widened, our field of vision expanded. On up the river a ways, we caught the reflection of a foreign shape. As we came closer, the shape materialized into two couples standing in a boat better than twice the size of Miss Shapen. The motor was tilted up.
As we approached the boat and turned off our quiet little 5-horsepower Evenrude, we saw four very wet, cold folks standing in a disabled boat. Seems like it had rained all day. Their boat, too big for the Swanson, and their motor reaching too deep in the water, had suffered one more bout with a rock than they had shear pins. They were too wet and scared to go downriver and far from a good camping area.
We tied a rope to their bow and towed them to a good place to camp. As we were leaving, now loaded with homemade thank-you cookies, one of the women spoke up with this parting thought, “We were feeling pretty good when the moon came up, the stars came out, and the northern lights began to play. But when we heard your harmonica music, we thought you were angels sent to rescue us.” We didn’t argue. We just took the cookies and went on our way. And nobody laughed at Miss Shapen with the wow in her bow.