I Can Do It Myself

Another infamous episode that took place when I was five came to be known as the “I can do it myself” incident. My mother, father, older brother, and I had headed into the wilderness on a trout-fishing excursion.

Goldendale was cowboy country, at least to a city boy from Seattle, so I insisted on wearing my new cowboy hat. When we came to a log crossing, brother Bill scampered across the log closely followed by mom. Dad tried to get my to take his hand while crossing the log, but I refused it repeatedly, loudly pronouncing “I’m a big boy. I can do it myself.”

Of course, if I could have there wouldn’t be any story. Needless to say, I ended up floating down a rushing snow-melt stream with only the cowboy cap tied under my chin revealing where I was. It would have helped, of course, if I had known how to swim.

Apparently my father found the whole incident so hilarious that my mother had to threaten to jump in and save me if he didn’t get up off the ground, quit laughing, and pull me out of the water. Eventually, of course, I was, though I still remember sadly watching my cowboy hat float away down the stream.

You might think I would’ve learned to ask for help after that, but you’d be wrong. If that were true, my mother wouldn’t have had to tell the tale repeatedly, and I probably would have forgotten it by now.

What I did learn was to fear slippery, and even not-so-slippery, logs. Despite all my backpacking and hiking, I’ve never feel entirely comfortable crossing rushing streams, particularly while balancing a heavy pack. I’ve been known to trek many a mile around such crossings. Once when there was no other way across, I even sat on the log and leap-frogged my way to the other side.

It’s taken much longer to learn to rely on others, something I’m not sure I’ve accomplished yet, though as a I age I find I’ve had to rely on wife, children, and even grandchildren for emotional support to get me through some episodes.

In a few days I’ll be relying once again on a doctor’s help, and perhaps that’s been the hardest of all to accept.