Column: Safety First

Published 10:16 am Sunday, August 1, 2021

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As rivers dry up, the sun’s heat intensifies and the humidity sucks every drop of moisture out of our bodies. I know it is August, or as it is called in Mississippi, the seventh layer of the sun when it gets this hot.

Being outside this time of year is physically taxing. You do not want to end up like one of my worst fishing trips. I was parched. I had nothing to drink but the slowly melting ice I had in Ziploc bags.

There is a saying, “what does not kill you makes you stronger,” and I think sometimes it takes a near-death experience to become wiser. For me, it took being so thirsty I wanted to drink lake water to learn to carry a water bottle or two with me this time of year.

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Fishing has always been an activity of solitude to me. There is something about the silent placid waters that calms the soul with no one in sight. It took a near-death experience for me to understand how dangerous fishing by myself could be.

Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, near Starkville, has a spillway that is cursed. I say it is cursed because the waters are muddy, cold and spooky. On one bank of the spillway is a limestone outcrop. In Arkansas, we call this a drop-off because a few feet from the shoreline. They drop off like the face of a cliff.

Last August, I had decided to go fishing after work and saw the limestone and decided it would be a good idea to fish from it. I nearly fell in my first two steps because the rock was so slippery.

To this day, I do not know why I continued to walk forward. I could have turned around and found a safer fishing spot right. Holding a Coleman cooler and my fishing rods, I kept walking, and suddenly my legs went out from under me.

Crack, my chin hit the rock, and my legs shot out towards the drop-off, struggling. I tried to push myself up with my feet but could not get any traction on the rock underneath me. When I finally stood up,  I saw the first drop of blood. It was about the size of a quarter when it hit the water.

My hands at the time were wet, so when I felt my chin, all I could feel was blood and broken flesh. I tried not to panic as I imagined the possibility of having torn the skin off my chin completely.

Fortunately for me, my cut was only an inch long, and the bleeding stopped an hour or so later. As I walked away from the spillway, all I could think about was what could have gone wrong. My fishing pole and cooler took the majority of my fall, but what if I had cracked my skull open, knocked myself out and then drowned in the water never to be found.

The worst thing about the situation is I had assumed fishing was a safe activity. I thought ‘why would someone ever need to know where I am or when I was planning to get back,’ until that experience changed my perspective on life and safety.

Do not get me wrong, I still fish by myself, but I make sure to let my fiance know where I am going and when I plan to return. When you are in the outdoors, anything can happen. A slip or a fall can change your life, and it is why you should always put safety first.

Tell someone you trust your plans, and if you download the Life360 app, they can see your location. Minutes could be the difference between life or death, as can staying hydrated.