From the time we first started learning to ski, we took turns pulling each other. The challenge was getting my father up on the skis, but he could not get the skis, tow rope, acceleration, and balance coordinated long enough to actually get up on the skis. I must have dragged him up and down the river every afternoon for two weeks with no success. But, he refused to give up.
Then, back at Sears, we found a ski training device. It was a special tow-rope handle with an extension that had a pair of cross-bars that were slipped over the tips of the skis. Once in place, the skier held the device down firmly against the skis. This clamped the skis and the skier in the right position to successfully pull up out of the water. My father seemed to understand exactly what this device was supposed to do. We would test it that afternoon.
We got out on the water, attached the training device in place of the regular tow rope handle. In the water, he practiced slipping the device over the ski tips and getting into position, clamping the device firmly over the skis.
He signaled that he was ready. I pulled the tow rope tight, checked and he nodded he was ready. I moved the throttle forward briskly, and there he was, up and skiing, although still bent over holding the device in place. As we moved forward, he gradually stood up. The tension on the tow rope pulled it off of the skis. He skied several hundred yards and then let go—arms and legs exhausted, but a big smile on his face.
He never used the training device again. All he had to do was get up that first time, and he had it figured out. From then on, we really took turns pulling each other up and down the river.
The skiing continued throughout my college years. We often had friends over. There were those that knew how to ski, those that learned quickly, and those we nearly drowned—it looked more like trolling bait for a killer whale!
One weekend, my friend John from college was spending the weekend at the farm. We had planned to go skiing the next morning. We had rigged two ropes. I think John got the red skis and I had my slalom. John already knew how to ski, so we were up and skimming across the water in no time. My father pointed the boat down river and we went all the way to Jamestown. We were far enough out in the mouth of the James to see the Chesapeake Bay. We were also in some very choppy water, with waves more than a foot high. Those waves were rough on the small boat, and he could not maintain full speed, and it was harder to ski at the slower speeds. He turned, and headed back up river. Soon we were cruising again. John and I skied non-stop about twenty miles that day.
When skiing alone and it was time to stop, my father would bring the boat at speed toward the beach, and I would let go of the tow rope and coast on the skis toward the beach. If timed it correctly, I would slow, the skis would sink, and I would step off of them in shallow water. Several times I waited too long. Fortunately, I realized I was going to slam into the beach, and dumped myself off of the skis in deeper water and swam to shore. Eventually I learned I could do the same thing coming into the dock. Again, if I timed it correctly, I could glide right up to the dock and stop, hanging onto the dock. That always made mother nervous. She was convinced I was going to slam into the side of the dock.
As I have said several times, I grew up somewhat spoiled—for example, spoiled because the boat was tied up in front of the house. If I wanted to go for a quick cruise, I just went down, untied the boat, and took off. I rarely ever skied after that. It was too much trouble. Even when I had a boat, it was on a trailer, and going to the lake or river required planning ahead, driving, launching, and then reversing that to go home. It just was not the same and never as much fun.
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