In the corner of my brother Craig’s bedroom there is a pile of outdoor gear growing by one item every year. From across the room it’s easy to spot the paddle propped against the windowsill and the PFD hanging from a nail. Dig a little deeper under the full set of raingear and you’ll find a throw bag, short wave radio, camera and an ice-fishing Tip Up. What bedroom would be complete without this handy spring-loaded device that sig- nals by popping up an orange flag when a fish has taken your minnow. Ideally you notice, put your beer in the snow, and dive across the ice to reel in dinner. I was so excited when he opened it. I had big plans for our annual ice fishing weekends. That was two Christmases ago.
Twelve years ago I left home bound for university and an eventual outdoor recreation, parks and tourism degree. Craig was turning 16 that fall and was busy changing the motor and doing the body work on his first pick-up truck. This spring when I called him on my cell phone he was still working. He was just finishing a brake job on a tractor-trailer, hands covered in grease and two knuckles bleeding because, he told me after, the wrench had slipped. After school, Craig stuck around home and now keeps my dad’s fleet of trucks rolling down the highway. He makes it to all the family functions.
“I’ll have to have a shower and get cleaned up a bit,” he said, “but I’ll be there for six.”
I was tumbleweeding through our hometown on my way to a paddling festival and called to ask if he’d come and paddle with me. I told him I needed to take some photos for the magazine. Part of this was true; I did need to get a couple folding kayaks on the water. But really, I just wanted to share an evening and a bit of my life with my little brother.
After the two of us and some guy in the park named Bicycle Earl assembled and pumped up our boats, I tossed Craig some paddling gear. We packed my camera and paddled into the setting sun. We floated, chatted and laughed. I taught him how to keep his boat straight. He told me about a new rap-metal band that he’d gone to see in Toronto. We even got around to taking the photos.
I often wondered if he knew the significance of the “Scott gifts.” I somehow thought that if he had the gear, our busy lives and 400 kilometres would come together more often. Instead of small talk over turkey, I always hoped we’d catch fish together or perhaps do a coastal paddling trip. He’d use the camera I gave him to record the memories.
Although too dark to stay out any longer, I reluctantly suggested we head in, break down the boats and pack them back in the truck.
Leaning against the tailgate shaking hands, I thanked him for coming out with me.
“These boats are pretty cool,” he said.
Checking one thing off my Christmas list, I thought to myself how nicely one of these folding boats will fit in the corner of his bedroom—right between the paddle and the short wave radio.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.