The sun radiated high above, spreading its rays to the white, hot sand and the sparkling, clear blue water. We were on an island. It was kind of a deserted island, but not the we-will-never-see-land-again type island, just an island in the sound. My family had travelled to Ft Walton Beach, FL to spend some time with my sister Diane and her family.
Two trips in my brother-in-law Bubba’s boat and all thirteen of us, our dog, the camping equipment and the food had been safely deposited on the shore of the island from the mainland. Hours later tents were erected, fire pits built, latrine station designated (this was rugged camping in spite of the beautiful view and surroundings), bellies full and we were ready to play.
We were blissfully ignorant that in 36 hours we would be evacuating our peaceful paradise in the dark of night. One of our tents would be worse for wear because of the giant hole our crazy, spooked, golden retriever Maggie would chew in it as she tried to escape the fire roaring in the sand pit. Our sun-scorched bodies would also find the fire’s heat too intense to even stand close enough to roast our hot dogs. One of us, our then seven-year-old Grace, would be worse for wear with a blood infection pulsating in her foot. She would have a middle-of-the-night mishap with her father mistaking her bronze-colored foot for the golden sand as he used the shovel to deeply dig a homemade port-a-potty. We did not know yet the lights would malfunction on the boat and a brave soul would be chosen to hang over the rim each trip to illuminate the water with a flashlight as we would hurriedly travel home in a shroud of eerie blackness to seek respite from our island fun.
But for now, in the fresh first hours, we were having fun. Baby Phoebe crawled around eating mouthfuls of sand. Maggie moved from spot to spot with her red fur glimmering as she lounged in the sun. The rest of us frolicked on rafts and bobbed up and down. Playing games with one another, waiting our turn for a ride on the coveted top of the inflatable yellow torpedo being pulled and raced across the sound behind the boat.
My sister and I, though adults, were no exception and excitedly waited each time for our turn. When our turn finally came, there were moments I thought we would drown in our laughter as we slipped into the water while trying to mount the bullet-shaped raft. It was a workout just to get our slightly out-of-shape, slightly overweight bodies on top, let alone keep them in the riding position. Finally aboard, we laughed as we clung to one another to hang on as our bodies flung to and fro, hair whipping in the wind as we zigged and zagged on the yellow torpedo.
After several turns and finally feeling capable in our ability to hang on for dear life, Bubba steered the boat to the middle of the sound. We were really cruising, dreams of being Speed Racer of the water, swimming in our grinning heads, when we fell. We giggled at first, and then a small measure of worry crept into our minds as we watched the boat pull off to circle around and get closer to us. We realized how far out in the water we actually had landed and the chances of the two of us successfully climbing on board from our stance in water and not sand were slim.
Attempt after attempt was made as we stretched arms, legs, torsos, any body part, gnashing our teeth, trying to grip the handles and swing ourselves up onto what now began to feel like our rescue craft. Now simply crawling onto the boat became our goal as we were growing tired. Our treading water became an unsightly combination of arms flapping, cutting ripples in the water, as we bellowed for help at an exasperated Bubba in front of us. He leaned in, changed the boat’s position, offered us his strong arms and tried to direct us as he armchair-quarterbacked what appeared to be easy maneuvers to him.
Finally, he jumped in to rescue us. We had been struggling with our half-hazard attempts for at least ten minutes. I really think he was determined to push us from the bottom up if need be to save us. Diane and I were too engrossed in our flailing about as Bubba firmly stated, “Ladies, ladies, put your feet down. Put your feet down. Would you just put your feet down.” We looked at one another and hesitantly lowered our feet. The grin on Bubba’s face quickly spread to ours as we faced him, standing in knee-deep water. We all chuckled in unison, “Sandbar.”