Magical Moments

Well, it happened again. Completely by accident. I don’t know why this is, I mean, I teach it and preach it, yet have a hard time living it; If we casually just dummy into things we like, why don’t we do them on purpose, all the time, for heaven’s sake!!??

This time, it was that magical moment when you leave the shore and begin floating on the water. My experience with this has been varied. I’ve been on a 50-foot house boat, a 48-foot cruiser, all manner of sport fishing and ski boats, and a number of canoes and kayaks. All have that certain special feel when you cast off, but nothing matches the simplest versions.

I have a picture of myself on Uncle Frank’s pond at age ten, in a tiny, flat-bottom, square-stern and bow, plywood, mini-john boat, on a medium-sized farm pond. Stayed on that boat all day ’til I was burnt to a crisp. That first experience afloat hooked me forever.

There have been countless trips on the Allegheny, the Conewango and other local streams. The most ambitious float trip; 10 days on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from central Maine to the St. Johns River on the Canadian border.

Every single time, there has been that magical moment, pushing off. And it happened again yesterday.

It started with a casual visit with Todd Bowersox, one of the entrepreneurs of “Outdoor Alley” in the 400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue West. Yup, the west end of downtown Warren. Todd came back here, his childhood home, to enjoy the outdoors and to figure out a way to share his passion with others. He’s a master fly fisherman and shot gunner, and boy is he anxious to share.

My visit coincided with the maiden voyage of a spectacular new drift boat he had just acquired. He was ready to take a test ride in the river and invited me along. The boat is amazing. It’s set up for a guide to row and one or two fishermen to test the waters. But this particular time, it was a much simpler pleasure.

It took Todd just a few minutes to prepare for a ride, then the magic moment arrived. I lifted the bow a little, pushed the boat out into the river and hopped aboard. Everything changed immediately, as it always does.

Todd rowed us up-river at a leisurely pace. The boat was perfectly suited to this; a comfortable, stable, easily maneuverable platform. The fishermen Todd guides are going to love this.

But it was more than just a boat ride. It was a get-to-know you conversation. It was an appreciation of the beauty of the river. It was a view of the geography and architecture of the river and the town from a non-typical point of view. It was extremely pleasant. After 20 minutes or so, I hopped out and Todd paddled away to do a little fishing. One of his mentors, also a guide, recommended that no matter how much fishing became a “business,” that one should always allow some personal time to enjoy that passion. Good advice.

One of my mentors said: “Men learn best in ‘ritual space'”. We need to gather in special places like “Outdoor Alley” and in fishing boats. Those are wonderful, magical places to share, and learn, and enjoy.

Gary Lester directs Leadership Warren and is a counselor with Family Services of Warren County, a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services, and support groups to individuals, couples, and families. Help Family Services reach 200 “likes” on Facebook by October 31. Just like its page at and invite your friends and family to do the same.