Day of Skipping Stones

There is the occasional day in life that stands out as something to remember with special fondness. I'm sure that there are, in reality, many of these memorable days that we, unfortunately, forget, which renders them somewhat less than memorable in the end, I suppose it would have to be concluded. And entire days are, perhaps, a bit much to grasp anyway. So to say that I once enjoyed a day of skipping stones might be stretching the truth somewhat. Even Kent Tekulve would have had a mighty sore arm after an entire day of it. No, it was probably no more than an hour or maybe two from start to finish, but as it was the concluding activity in a long day out of doors, it simply capped it off in a fine way, and thus it is the memory that remains of that day.

In the early months of my release from college, I found myself at Harvard Avenue Baptist Church in Tulsa, and before long I wound up an assistant handler in the Royal Ambassadors program. The Royal Ambassadors, or RAs, is a group of unruly, young lads masquerading as scouts. This is usually done in a Sunday School room where the taste of the great outdoors tends to be hampered just a trifle. So one day we all set out on an epic journey to nearby Lake Fort Gibson, I believe it was, to engage in a camp out.

Now, a qualifying statement needs to be made about the word "we." It has been concluded by an institute somewhere that the appropriate number of handlers to be associated with a group of young scout lads is somewhere in the vicinity of six to one. That is, there needs to be at least six adult males for every one lad in order for the chaos to be stabilized to such an extent that only three or four windows are broken and no more than two lads are admitted to the hospital per meeting. It has been proven effective. However, on this particular outing, I recall there being Roger, Steve, David, and myself as the total detachment sent out to patrol the RAs, who numbered at least six. (Notice that surnames have been omitted for security reasons.) It was indeed an operation, but I have not come here to dwell on difficulties. No, this is a pleasant story of happiness and camaraderie.

It was soon discovered that leading our charges on an extremely long and grueling hike along the edge of the lake would calm their spirits and slow their responses to more closely match our own. So we had hiked for maybe 150 miles when we came upon an old road which led into the lake. Apparently the lake had been expanded at one point to encompass the area through which this road sojourned. For it was, in its present capacity, what appeared to be a boat ramp, and yet about twenty or thirty yards from the bank stood a stop sign, rising out of the water like Excalibur in the hand of the Lady of the Lake. We all puzzled at this marvel of modern engineering for a few moments, then it was unanimously concluded that we would engage in skipping stones.

When a group of males, regardless of the ages of its members, begins a stone skipping event, competition is bound to result, and so it did on this fine summer's day. However, the contest soon took a turn right out of James 3:16, which says, "for where zeal and rivalry are, there is insurrection and every evil matter" (Young's Liberal Translation). Because, rather than the typical struggle for dominance so common in these all-male gatherings, the practice of cheerful giving erupted. It went something like this; when a particularly fine, round, flat rock was found by a member of the group, beginning with the elder members, it was presented as a gift to another of the company, being considered too good for the finder. But this was not simply a discreet handing-off to the other person. No, a self-righteous display of charity, not unlike that of the Pharisee on the corner, ensued, which contained as part of the affair, an elaborate naming ceremony. Here is an example:

"Steve, may I present to you this especially magnificent specimen, which is a Super Quadra Skipper Flipper."

Steve would reply, "Thank thee. In return I offer you this Regulation Giganticus Ocean Flyer, MkIII, just given to me by Roger."

David would chime in, "To Roger, I hereby bequeath this lovely rock, which I call Model 84 Wave Hopper Deluxe."

Eventually the younger set joined in, following their own distinctive fashion, "Gweg, I pweesent you wiff diss Supah Doopah Wave Fwippa."

Fun was had by all, and many a dozen rocks made the move from the coast to a new, underwater dwelling place, causing the lake level to rise ever so much. It was as the sun had begun to sink behind us, and we were all growing tired and hungry. The decision was made that Steve, I think it was, as our outstanding champion, would throw the last and final rock of the day, and we would subsequently call it quits and return to base camp. The search for the perfect rock commenced, and finally one was found of such matchless perfection, it was presented to Steve, accompanied by the most elaborate naming ceremony yet, christened with a name of such hallowed distinction, it cannot here be repeated. Steve humbly accepted the rock, made a moving speech, then turned to face the water. The rest of us stood back at a respectable distance and stood in silence. Steve studied the rock for defects. None being found, because it was THE perfect rock, he assumed the accepted stance for rock hurling, took a deep breath, exchanged a few subtle winks with some unseen hind catcher of the lagoon, wound back his arm and dispatched the perfect rock like a banshee projectile towards the surface of the deep. All held their breath. It was clear this was going to be a good one. The rock, speeding onward to its destination, struck the top of the now glassy, smooth water. It bounced, struck again, bounced again, struck again. It was executing an elegant series of magnificent skips. There had been many fine examples throughout the evening, but none like this. Finally, just as it seemed to be nearing its final descent, the perfect rock suddenly popped up from the water, higher than it had ever flown to date, and struck the stop sign right smack in the middle.

All stood in reverent silence. All mouths hung open in absolute disbelief, including Steve's. We had witnessed possibly the finest hour in stone skipping ever beheld by mortal man. No one remembers how long we lingered on the sight of the spectacle, bestowing warm words of admiration upon our friend. At last, the sun dropped below the horizon behind us, its reflection on the surface of the lake melting into shadow, and the group of comrades slowly turned and began the long walk home, knowing they had witnessed a singular close of a perfect day.

© 2015 Dane Tate