Get out your metal detectors and prospecting pans because there’s gold in the Shenango River (PA)

I found this column to be hilarious. For reasons revealed later, it was relatively easy to obtain permission to reprint. Hope you enjoy it too.
The following column appeared in the July 18, 2014, edition of the Greenville, Pa., Record-Argus. It is being republished with permission from The Record-Argus.
Get out your metal detectors and prospecting pans, because there’s gold in the Shenango River.
by Caleb Stright
A ring’s worth, at least.
You see, I’m not good with water, or rivers or anything out-of-doors, but my wife, on the other hand, enjoys biking and kayaking and all those things that provide blisters and sunburns and bugs in your teeth.
At some point recently, she caught me off guard or confused and suggested we get in small boats and use our own limbs to power ourselves miles down a river. In this moment of confusion, I pictured a peaceful, tranquil afternoon of pointing out majestic river birds. I pictured us sneaking up on our town and seeing it from angles that only the river would provide.
And for the most part, that’s exactly how our Fourth of July went. The sun was warm on the water. Around every bend, it seemed a great blue heron would unfold itself out of a tree and glide from bank to bank. And there was a very negligible amount of bugs in my teeth.
You might be able to guess that changed.
You see, there are a lot of forks in the Shenango River. I don’t know who designed it, but it seems like a really inefficient way to get water from one place to another.
To complicate things, storms in recent weeks had knocked over a handful of trunks and limbs into the river, which meant that when we got to a fork, we’d have to peek down one route, and if it was blocked, we’d try the other.
In one instance, I looked right; it looked blocked. We went left; I was wrong — we rounded a bend and found another big dumb tree in our way.
Like I said, I don’t spend much time on rivers, so I honestly had no idea what to do. What are you supposed to do if both routes are blocked?
I still don’t know.
As I slowly floated toward our roadblock, I asked my brain to come up with a solution.
It spent several moments stumbling and thrashing about — I remember at one point before the panic set in, it trying to weigh out what kind of pizza we should get for dinner — but it didn’t ever come up with any solutions to the problem at hand.
And while my brain was preoccupied with pepperoni and tomatoes, the river had pulled me into a current and was quickly pulling me toward the tree.
“Try paddling,” my brain told me, but my arms were little help.
“Is that all you’ve got?” I asked my brain.
“Is that all you’ve got?” my brain asked me.
We were at an impasse.
Then out of nowhere, as if it had just been dropped down to me, a tree branch appeared above my head.
“Grab that,” my brain yelled. It convinced me the branch would stop me, at least long enough for my brain to come up with a real plan.
I learned a lot of things that day, most importantly that I shouldn’t have grabbed that branch.
Almost immediately, my kayak flipped. I hurdled into the water, into the current. The river just pushed me around for awhile, and I kicked and flailed trying to find the river bed. The water was just a few feet deep, but the current was pulling me, and I wasn’t 100 percent sure which way was up.
I stretched out my hands to push myself up, and as I found the rocks below, I stretched my fingers; with a little help from the river, in that moment, my wedding ring scurried down my finger and vanished.
I had a life jacket on of course, but I was still struggling to find my footing. I eventually waded out of the current, but by the time I had, it was hard enough getting my kayak back, let alone my ring.
My white gold wedding band and I had been through a lot in the seven months we were together, but we were meant to go our separate ways that day.
I imagine it tumbling ashore in New Hamburg, or somehow in the Shenango Reservoir. I’d like to think it’ll find its way into the hands of some hopeful young woman, with no qualms about my taste in rings, and plans to marry some fellow with fingers that are short and stubby enough to fit my band, and sense enough to leave it behind if he should ever get tricked into kayaking.
In all seriousness, though, the Shenango River is beautiful and a great asset to the community, and once my frustration with myself fades, I’ll kayak it again.
But don’t tell my wife.

Caleb Stright is the managing editor of The Record-Argus. I am also glad to say he is my son-in-law.