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In recent days as I turned another year older, I remembered the special times I had with my dad as a kid. The year I was born my dad purchased a boat. We spent every summer out on that boat. Growing up he taught me how to water ski, wakeboard, and fish on the boat. Into my teens, we took it to lakes all over Colorado. I remember him waking me up in the wee hours of the morning to drive a distance so we could fish on Lake Pueblo. We drove with that boat as far north as Wyoming and as far east as Nebraska.
When I turned 21, my dad decided the time had come to pass on the legacy and he gave me the boat for my birthday. This past weekend, I turned 46. I have now owned the boat 5 years longer than my dad did.
Over the years, I used the skills my dad taught me to keep the boat running year after year. Just by a lucky break, it survived the Fort Collins flood of 1997. It was parked right next to Spring Creek — I had moved it just a few days earlier.
In my early 20s, when I moved to Utah I took the boat with me. I spent a few summers on Lake Powell and other beautiful lakes around the State.
Then I came back to Colorado with the boat in tow. For the next 25 years, I continued to use it — fixing it up, and maintaining the outboard motor that my dad had replaced in the ’90s. When my sons were born, I wasted no time taking them out on the boat. I have fond memories of riding with my toddler-aged sons in the tube on the back and teaching them to fish on the very boat on which my father taught me to fish.
Recently, keeping the boat up has become more challenging. However, even with limited water and electricity on my off-grid mountain property, I have learned to adapt. For example, now, I hook the vacuum to a generator rather than plugging it into a wall. I charge the boat’s battery with my solar system and I hook the motor up to my off-grid water tank, so I can flush it out.
This past weekend, I invited my dad to come up with my sons to Horsetooth Reservoir. In recent years, I use it exclusively on Horsetooth because I sincerely appreciate the level of maintenance and the people who run the park. My dad uses oxygen now and has a hard time walking. And while my Stepmom was busy helping to carry supplies to the boat, a Park Ranger saw my dad starting to walk to the boat dock. She quickly pulled up on a golf cart and gave him a ride. In all my years with my dad on the boat, I have never witnessed such a kind gesture by staff at a lake. She helped him out of the golf cart, my friend Rolly guided him down the boat dock, and he slowly sat in the boat. Dad was smiling ear to ear — a moment I will always remember. In fact, it was such a moment in time that memories starting firing of all the fun we have had together on that very boat.
The next several hours were some of the most special in all the time I have spent on the boat. Dad was beaming and he told me how proud he was that I had maintained the boat so well over the years. And I witnessed how much fun my young sons had with all of us. We had a picnic in a cove and talked about life. My youngest son swam for what seemed like hours wearing his life jacket while my oldest son fished. And when it was time to go, I got one of the most powerful hugs from my dad I can ever remember. I didn’t want to let him go and I certainly didn’t want to leave.
No one knows how many years any of us has left. But the moments we shared and the memories we created will last a lifetime. And perhaps when my sons reach an age when they can (and want to) maintain the boat as I did, they can take the reins and continue the legacy of the boat — the family legacy my father created the year I was born.
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