Beach Bums

Prairie Wool

Helen Row Toews

Summer on the prairies sees folks flocking to the beach where they bask in the sun and frolic in the waves. Of course, a lake can offer many activities beyond these. It’s a place to get away from it all, kick off your sandals, slap on the shades and relax.

It’s somewhere fishermen cast their lines, boats scud across the sparkling waves and countless sticky s’mores are gobbled down amid laughter and fun. It’s a spot to contemplate the stars, or perhaps our very existence as we recline in the warm sand, listening to gently lapping waves.

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At least – that’s what I’ve heard. I’m not an authority since I never go, but it sounds good in theory. My fear of water is a serious hindrance to spending much time at lake’s edge, and I don’t even like crossing bridges, let alone crouching in a boat. I do in fact own a bathing suit, but haven’t strapped it on in fifteen years, ever since brother Bill pointed out I looked like a black lab paddling for shore. Couple this with several other unpleasant situations I’ve encountered and it’s no wonder I think twice before going.

When my son Chris was a young, impressionable lad, he and I took a trip to Victoria, BC to visit friends. One sunny day we prepared a picnic lunch and spent time on a beach overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After picking our way along a shadowy trail, we climbed down a long flight of stairs and emerged on the sand below.

The sun shone, dancing on waves that splashed in the distance. The tide was out and people were scattered everywhere searching for sand dollars, tiny crabs and shells. We rolled up our jeans, took off our shoes and did the same; passing several blissful hours before wandering down the coastline to find a quiet spot to dine.

The crowd had thinned behind us, but there appeared to be a large group some distance ahead. As we drew nearer Chris placed a hand on my shoulder and quietly spoke. “Mom, I think those people up there are naked.”

“What?” I scoffed, “They can’t be. This is a public area. They must be wearing flesh coloured-swim suits.”

 “All of them?” questioned my boy, squinting at me in disbelief.

Just in case, we stopped where we were and found a secluded spot among the rocks to contentedly munch a sandwich. Presently a man trudged past, carrying a guitar.

Chris poked me and hissed, “See. Nude!” Granted the man was shirtless and pant-less, but undoubtedly he wore shorts. They were just hidden behind the instrument case, I assured my son with a smile.

Finishing up, we packed our things and headed back to the car. Along the way, loud, tuneless strumming jarred our senses and we turned toward the sound at the same horrible moment.

Yes, there was the man. He sprawled unpleasantly over a nearby boulder, cradling the guitar close to his hairy chest – naked as a jaybird.

So yeah, beaches aren’t my favourite place to be, but when you’re able to go, I’m sure the rest of you will have a great time.

Oh, and for future reference, very few people ever wear flesh-coloured swim suits – and whole groups of them – probably never.

Just so you know. 


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