Vulnerability, or the Time RyanM and VC Saved My Life

 

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ― Madeleine L’Engle

When I was about 4 or 5, I started taking swimming lessons. I’ve always loved swimming and it’s one of the few athletic things I’ve actually been consistently good at, regardless of the rest of my physical health.

This past weekend was the Montana Rico Meetup, and I finally got to meet @vicrylcontessa and @1967mustangman. I’ve known @ryanm for several years as he’s an old friend of my husband’s (as listeners of Flyover Country already know). Sunday, we decided to go out kayaking on the lake as VC had brought her kayak and the McPherson clan was staying at a resort that offered free kayaks. I was incredibly excited as I haven’t been kayaking in years and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.

We got the kayaks down to the lake and the water was the opposite of calm. I was extra excited because I knew this would make it more fun. Danger was the last thing on my mind as I’m still relatively young and believed I was still invincible.  I did not take a life vest. I’m the opposite of a petite woman and I could already tell that none of the vests were going to fit me. So rather than having an embarrassing time failing to fit into one, I boldly proclaimed that I would be fine and had enough “padding” to stay afloat. This would have been true had the lake been still.

Getting the kayak out in the water was difficult because the waves were large and kept pushing the kayak parallel to them. The kayak filled up with water quickly and it took several of us to get it back on the rocky beach and dumped out. We tried getting it back in again and WHOOSH! I got sucked under it, bruising my shins on the rocks in the process. I got up out of the water, still determined to get the damn thing out in the water.

Finally, I was out on the lake, paddling away from the shore, going up and down the increasingly larger waves while having a blast. I got out a little way and decided to see how easy it was to turn the thing 180 and point back at the shore. It was fairly easy. Feeling more confident, I decided to chase some of the bigger waves a little further out. It was glorious! I was having so much fun! The smoke had also lifted enough that I could see the mountains and the scenery was absolutely beautiful.

After a while, I decided that I should head back to shore as my arms were beginning to get tired from paddling. VC had gone much further out in the lake than I had. I started to turn, but my timing was off and a wave hit just as I was doing so. The kayak rocked dangerously but I kept trying to turn. Another big wave hit, but I was still up. I was almost there in the right position when I got knocked over by a third big wave and over I went. I couldn’t get the kayak back up. It didn’t have a skirt and had taken in too much water from the first two waves.

I finally gave up trying to push the kayak, knowing that it would eventually reach shore and I completely lost track of the paddle. I turned towards the shore and kicked off my flip flops, determined to swim for it, but it didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t making nearly enough progress for how tired my arms were. The waves were dumping water over my head and I went under a few times. I tried kicking my legs with the waves, but my head kept going under water. I tried rolling on my back to just let the waves carry me back to shore, but after a few nosefuls of water, I decided that wasn’t a good idea either. I knew I was in a really bad position and the main thing that popped into my mind from all my swimming lessons was “Call for help and try not to panic because panicking will make it worse.”

I started yelling for help, hoping they could hear me over the wind and the waves on the shore. I didn’t know how far back VC was still, but I assumed I was going to have to do most of the swimming. So yelling in between coughing up water and swimming I did. I had gotten out much further than I’d originally intended, I thought I saw someone swimming towards me, but they were so far away they looked like a dot without my glasses. I was getting too tired to stay afloat. I was taking in too much water and having trouble breathing. My labor was getting less and less effective at keeping me up. My head started slipping under the water more and more. My arms felt like jelly. I was trying so hard not to panic but it was getting more difficult to keep it together. I prayed as hard as I could that I wouldn’t die like this. This is not how I wanted to go.

It seemed like an eternity passed, but then there was VC, handing me a lifeline in the form of a paddle and I clung to it in desperation. I don’t remember what either of us said. The only thing I remember was sheer relief flooding in to replace my terror. She held me up with the paddle until Ryan made it to me with a couple of life jackets. I was going to live after all. Using the life vests to keep my upper half afloat, I kicked with the waves and eventually made it back to shore, just as my legs were starting to feel like jelly.

I found out later that she had started towards me after she saw my kayak flipped over. If she hadn’t noticed, I don’t think Ryan would have made it out to me in time. I felt so dumb that I didn’t at least take a life vest with me, or wear one unfastened. It was an abrupt lesson, learning that I am, in fact, a vulnerable human being and I am not, in fact, invincible just because I am young. It’s also been difficult for me to come to terms with facing my own mortality.

VC and Ryan both have my eternal gratitude. I truly appreciate you both.

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  1. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    That was a long swim!  ;)

    Of course, the very next day, the stupid lake was as calm as a glass of water.

    Note to self:  lakes are sometimes more like oceans.  This is something I actually did not know.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Oh my! I want to thank Ryan and VC too! We would have missed you! Seriously, I can’t imagine how frightening that must have been. L’Engle is wonderful, and her quote is so true. So glad you made it through, Ms. Snapp!

    • #2
  3. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Note to self: lakes are sometimes more like oceans. This is something I actually did not know.

    Depends on how big the lake is, I think.

    • #3
  4. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    For VC and Ryan:

     

    • #4
  5. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim.  You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so he stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And then, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired), Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    • #5
  6. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    Okay, I’m calling BS.  There’s not enough elastic in your underwear to make a serpentine belt.

    • #6
  7. livingthehighlife Member
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    Whoa!  That’s incredible!

    Let me guess – no one had a camera?

    • #7
  8. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    livingthehighlife (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    Whoa! That’s incredible!

    Let me guess – no one had a camera?

    No, Ryan is just far too modest to allow picture taking.

    • #8
  9. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    livingthehighlife (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    Whoa! That’s incredible!

    Let me guess – no one had a camera?

    Actually, my wife got a picture of Julie in the Kayak before it flipped.  But all of the electromagnetic static from the storm was making it difficult to take pictures after the rescue began.

    • #9
  10. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    New sales pitch for Ricochet:  Join Ricochet we save lives!

    Or: Don’t Worry if your life is in danger because of Ricochet we will save your life!

    Or:  Ricochet We Make Heroes out of Lawyers, seriously…

    • #10
  11. Brian Wolf Coolidge
    Brian Wolf
    @BrianWolf

    Seriously glad everyone made it and good work everyone on working together and keeping everyone safe…

    • #11
  12. OldDan Rhody Member
    OldDan Rhody
    @OldDanRhody

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Note to self: lakes are sometimes more like oceans. This is something I actually did not know.

    Depends on how big the lake is, I think.

    On a personal scale, when the waves are filling your nostrils with water the lake is oceanic.

    • #12
  13. Daphnesdad Member
    Daphnesdad
    @Daphnesdad

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

       Okay, I’m calling BS. There’s not enough elastic in your underwear to make a serpentine belt.

    Seaweed,  your forgot the seaweed.

     

    • #13
  14. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    J.D. Snapp:VC and Ryan both have my eternal gratitude. I truly appreciate you both.

    As do we.  Thank you.

     

    • #14
  15. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Your story reminded me of this:

    “I went for a row with another boy a little younger than myself. When we were more than a mile from the shore, we decided to swim, pulled off our clothes, jumped into the water, and swam about in great delight.  When we had enough the boat was perhaps 100 yards away.  A breeze had begun to stir the waters. The boat had a small red awning over its stern seats. This awning acted as a sail by catching the breeze. As we swam towards the boat, it drifted farther off.  After this had happened several times we had perhaps halved the distance.  But meanwhile the breeze was freshening and we both, especially my companion, began to be tired.  Up to this point no idea of danger had crossed my mind. The sun played upon the sparkling blue waters; the wonderful panorama of mountains and valleys, the gay hotels and villas still smiled. But I now saw Death as near as I believe I have ever seen Him. He was swimming the in the water at our side, whispering from time to time in the rising wind which continued to carry the boat away from us at about the same speed we could swim. No help was near. Unaided we could never reach the shore. I was not only an easy, but a fast swimmer, having represented my House at Harrow, when our team defeated all comers. I now swam for my life. Twice I reached within a yard of the boat and each time a gust carried it just beyond my reach; but by a supreme effort I caught hold of its side in the nick of time before a still stronger gust bulged the rad awning again. I scrambled in, and rowed back for my companion who though tired, had not apparently realised the dull yellow glare of mortal peril that had so suddenly played around us. I said nothing to the tutor about this serious experience; but I have never forgotten it; and perhaps some of my readers will remember it too.”

    • Winston Churchill, My Early Life. It is the summer before he enters Sandhurst.

     

    • #15
  16. J.D. Snapp Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp
    @JulieSnapp

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    This is the best version of the story, by far.

    • #16
  17. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim.

    That wasn’t a 200lb man-eating large mouth bass, that was a kraken!

    Image result for kraken

    • #17
  18. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    It’s always astounding how quickly things can change when out on the water.  Very glad you were saved.

    • #18
  19. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Welcome to Ricochet, land of tall tales and daring rescues.  Julie, am I the only one who has not heard of this?  How did we not hear about this Sunday night?

    • #19
  20. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Welcome to Ricochet, land of tall tales and daring rescues. Julie, am I the only one who has not heard of this? How did we not hear about this Sunday night?

    I heard part of it, but it seemed a lot less drastic at the time.

    • #20
  21. J.D. Snapp Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp
    @JulieSnapp

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Welcome to Ricochet, land of tall tales and daring rescues. Julie, am I the only one who has not heard of this? How did we not hear about this Sunday night?

    I didn’t want to talk about it too much in case I messed up my fantastic eye makeup with tears. :)

    • #21
  22. J.D. Snapp Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp
    @JulieSnapp

    Matt Balzer (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Welcome to Ricochet, land of tall tales and daring rescues. Julie, am I the only one who has not heard of this? How did we not hear about this Sunday night?

    I heard part of it, but it seemed a lot less drastic at the time.

    See previous comment for the reason behind that.

    • #22
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Ricochet: Quote of the Day: Where the quotes are short, but the stories are certainly not.

    If you’ve got stories like this one, I’m sure you can find a quote to introduce it, so why not go sign up right now?

    • #23
  24. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    J.D. Snapp (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Welcome to Ricochet, land of tall tales and daring rescues. Julie, am I the only one who has not heard of this? How did we not hear about this Sunday night?

    I didn’t want to talk about it too much in case I messed up my fantastic eye makeup with tears. ?

    That’s what amazes me, darling, now that I’ve heard, as my fellow Tulsan, Paul Harvey, used to say . . . The Rest of the Story.

    You were such a trouper about it when we saw you that night, joking about Ryan’s having gone “all Baywatch” on your behalf, that I had no idea until I read this account how truly terrifying that must have been for you.

    Doesn’t surprise me at all though, now that I’ve met you all in person, that those two would come to your aid and that you’d not only handle the aftermath with such aplomb — but also be willing to share the experience, as a cautionary tale, with the rest of us.

    I got all scared for you in hindsight, reading that.  And relieved beyond measure when it all ended well.

    I need some of that “red hot” whiskey, now.  ;)

    • #24
  25. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    J.D. Snapp (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):
    Also, you obviously took on too much water, because you remember it wrong.

    You completely forgot about my fight to the death with the 200lb man-eating large mouth bass about 2/3 of the way through the mile long swim. You also forgot the thunderstorm that kicked up and inundated VC with white squall as she fought the wind and raging sea.

    Then, when it was all over, and Ryan was still filled with adrenaline, so stacked up all 3 Kayaks and the ill-fated Canoe onto his shoulders and walked barefoot across jagged rocks all the way back to the cabin.

    And THEN, when VC’s car broke down, and MustangMan sat crying on the side of the road because he thought all was lost (and AAA had just informed him that his membership had expired) and Ryan created a makeshift serpentine belt by weaving together seaweed with fibers from his underwear elastic…

    This is the best version of the story, by far.

    I’m getting flashbacks to the famous “Real and True Story of the Giraffe” Trifecta.

    Looking forward to VC’s installment.

    • #25
  26. Pilli Member
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    A friend an I were sailing together going downwind.  Sailing downwind is always deceptive.  Because the boat is moving with the wind, it seems like you are hardly moving at all.

    My friend said that he thought he could probably swim faster than we were sailing.  I disagreed.  He decided to prove it.  Mind you, we were about a half mile offshore so it was going to be a long swim for him if something went wrong.  I rigged a a line about 50 feet long and threw it behind the boat with a life jacket tied to the end…just in case.  He chided me for it.

    He jumped overboard.  By the time he surfaced, the boat was 20 feet away and getting further.  He started swimming…hard and found that there was no way he was keeping up.  As he reached exhaustion, the life jacket came alongside him.  He grabbed it and was towed for a bit as he caught his breath.

    I dropped the sails and hauled him back to the boat.  He learned a lesson.  So did I, but I didn’t tell him that.

    • #26
  27. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Glad you came away okay. I, too, wouldn’t have shared right after in order to preserve my fantastic eye makeup.

    Good.  All is well.

    • #27
  28. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Pilli (View Comment):
    So did I, but I didn’t tell him that.

    Yeah, especially not what the lesson was.

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    I, too, wouldn’t have shared right after in order to preserve my fantastic eye makeup.

    Oh, Mongo!

    • #29
  30. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher
    Vicryl Contessa
    @VicrylContessa

    As I recall, I was about half a league off when I looked back to see Julie’s kayak had flipped over. I turned around thinking maybe she might need some help as I saw sharks circling the area. I dug in the water and paddled hard to get back to her- I could hear her screaming for help. As I approached her, a large great white began to charge. I pulled out my Colt 1911 .45 from my shoulder holster and shot him dead through the eye. I got up next to Julie and threw my life jacket to her, making sure that she had enough strength in her legs to kick towards shore. I yelled at Ryan to grab another life vest and swim out to meet us. Then, I turned my kayak around to retrieve the floundering vessel and accoutrement. Ryan reached Julie, giving her a second life vest. Ryan and I hauled the water logged kayak back to shore. Ryan lost his lower left leg to a shark. Mustangman whittled a wodden peg leg for him. Later that night, Ryan made a smart-ass comment to his wife- that’s how he lost his eye, hence the eye patch. Kay in MT’s parrot took a liking to Ryan, and now perches on his shoulder.

    • #30

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