Off The Tongue




THE MOST COMMON way youth are introduced to whitewater is by their families, usually their parents. Which makes sense, right? Mom and Dad love rivers and they wish to share that passion with their children. It seems only natural. Obvious. Indisputable. Malcolm MacGregor didn’t paddle. He didn’t

even swim. I don’t remember my dad ever sleeping in a tent. Instead, as a boy he was drawn to the bush with a .22-caliber lever-action Remington and a beagle named Suzie. In high school my dad won blue ribbons show jumping horses. He later rode the rails moving boxcars of cattle from Canada to Mexico. Around the time I was born he was breeding state champion bluetick coonhound hunting dogs. When a car accident in the late ‘70s left his leg a mess and his ankle fused solid, his buddies got him into bow hunting. Dad bounced his ATV close enough to the deer stand so he could crutch the rest of the way to the tree. He was not a paddler but he had the

adventurous stubborn spirit of a voyageur. During the proofing of this issue of Rapid my

dad had a stroke. The week I’m usually a world away from him in

my riverside office correcting spelling and writing pithy cover lines, I spent in the Hamilton General Hospital at his bedside watching his body slowly shut itself down. On the monitors above, my dad’s heart rate

trickled across the screens like standing waves in a slowly dying river. The crests and valleys became more shallow and closer together until finally their energies cancelled out

for the last

time. The river lay flat and motionless. I doubt my dad had any regrets. He was too

pragmatic. As far as I know he’d never taken the time to think about things he couldn’t fix. I have regrets. I regret not taking him down a river. I regret

not insisting that we spend more time together. I regret never sharing with him what was so

important to me and what sucked me away from my family, away from his trucking company and away from a wonderful home. I could have taken him, of course. Over the I’ve guided hundreds of non-swimming


fathers down rivers. I even own my own raft. I’d think of it from time to time and call him terminals after

from airport red-eye flights to

somewhere. We’d make half-assed plans to get together soon. Then there were always reasons to postpone the trip until another time. Bullshit reasons like deadlines, water levels and brake jobs. Everything in the past 25 years of my adult

life has been about moving water. My children learned to swim in rapids. My dad died having never seen me paddle.

Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Rapid. Telling his dad how much he loved him is the hardest thing he never did. | 9

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