Ditch Day Disaster!

It might have been called something else—eighth grade field trip, maybe—but each year, toward the end of the school year, the entire eighth grade class at Buckeye Elementary school got to take a day off from classes and go to Phoenix for a day of fun and frolicking at Encanto Park. I think it was a reward for the students for having made it through the first eight grades of their education. Although, there were rumors the teachers all chipped in to get us out of town so they could celebrate finally being rid of us.

I don’t remember much about Encanto Park, except there were lots of big trees, and some kind of stream or lake (pond?). The one thing I’ll never forget is there were canoes. That’s the thing me, Barry, Randy and, if I’m not mistaken, George were most excited about—the canoes!

We arrived at the park about mid-morning, and after listening (as defined by eighth graders) patiently as a teacher lectured us about the rules and schedule for the day, we exploded off the bus and ran screaming in all directions. Me and my three pals ran straight for the canoes.

It was, of course, hot (a dry heat) even early in the morning, and anything to do with water seemed a no-brainer to the four of us. We got another lecture from the guy at the canoe stand, about how to get in a canoe and safety once we were in it. We listened raptly, not hearing a word he was saying, thinking he wasn’t much older than us, so who died and made him the boss of canoes.

As soon as the guy quit talking, Barry and I almost knocked each other down scrambling to get into the closest canoe. The canoe was on its top and we were in the water in less than ten seconds, the canoe guy was yelling at us, Randy and George were laughing, and we were sputtering and spitting water as we climbed back onto dry land. The canoe guy was really mad because he had to get in the water first thing in the morning, to turn the canoe over. We felt really bad about the whole thing.

Finally, we were out on the open water, and paddling away from civilization. Actually, I don’t think we were ever more than twenty feet from shore, but, you get my drift, I’m sure. We were free, wet and thirteen! Life was good! For about fifteen minutes.

George and Randy paddled up alongside us, and as you might expect, a water fight ensued. In the minds of boys of a certain age (thirteen), canoes are not made for rowing peacefully about, they are battle ships made to carry fierce warriors into the fray. Using our paddles, we began splashing wildly, and didn’t notice how close to each other we’d drifted during the melee. Until, that is, Randy’s paddle skipped across the water and introduced itself to Barry’s forehead. Ditch day was quite suddenly over for my best pal.

The splashing ceased and silence fell over our battlefield as Barry slapped a palm to his forehead, trying to stem the flow of blood from the gash the canoe paddle had opened above his eye. Without a word, he jumped out of the boat and waded to shore then ran toward where the teachers had told us someone would be should we for any reason need assistance. (See, we were listening. The trick is, to make them think you’re not listening, just so you can enjoy the exasperated look on their face.)

We didn’t see Barry again that day. When we got on the bus to go home that afternoon, we were informed that he’d gone to the emergency room to get stitches then his Mom had come to pick him up and take him home. He was fine, the teacher said, but had a bit of a headache. She smiled when she said the last part, maybe thinking it would make us laugh.

Please, don’t tell Barry, but we somehow managed to have fun without him the rest of the day. We felt bad he missed out. For about half an hour or so.

Hey! Ditch day only happened once in eight years! We were thirteen! It was hot! There was water! There were eighth grade girls! There were only ten teachers and seventy of us! Did I mention we were thirteen?


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    I loved this!!! Fun story, even with the bloodshed.

  2. ShirleyAnderson said

    Yes! I so remember that ditch day. “The Boys” tormented the girls all day. We did a good job of pretending we didn’t like it. I remember seeing Barry walk out of the water holding his head. We (the girls) thought for sure our party was over and we would be going home on the bus. It was really a fun day, except for Barry getting hurt.

    • Cool! Yes, we figured it was going to be the ned of the day, too. Randy (Estes) was almost sick over it. He came around though, and we did have a good time. Would have been better with ol’ Barry there though. He was a hoot!

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