When I reached 80, they told me that senility would settle in and I’d lose short-term memory, but still wistfully, but accurately, remember the “good old days.” I guess that they were right, because now that I’m 86, there are times that I don’t remember why I got up to leave the room — but I still remember the “good old days” when I led kayak tours at Galveston Island State Park.

I remember when Sydney McClendon died tragically so many years ago, and Jerry Mohn organized a memorial fund. When the fund reached $7,000, we, The Friends of Galveston Island State Park, bought six tandem sit-on-top kayaks and accessories and a trailer as a memorial because Sydney was an avid kayaker and a founder of the park group.

Now that the group had the boats, what to do with them? Members rejected renting them out because as a nonprofit it would be a managerial and IRS accounting nightmare, so we settled on Sydney McClendon Memorial Kayak Tours.

Since I was kayaking the park two or three times a week anyhow and I lived close by, I became the tour leader running the show from my home phone setting up short notice tours for groups from two to 16.

Granted, I didn’t know what all the plants and birds and animals were, but I did know the difference between coastal prairie grasses and smooth cordgrass, and I knew the marshes where the little fishes hid out from big birds and bigger fish long enough to become Gulf seafood.

I might not have memorized the American Canoeing Association kayaking handbook, but I knew enough to teach how to keep the boat headed in the right direction, and to get them out and back the same day. I may have been a bit shy on the educational part of the mission, but I and the tourists thoroughly enjoyed the recreational part. When they asked ”How much does it cost?” my answer always was “Nothing, but you can contribute to FoGISP.”

In a good year the group netted as much as $2,500.

I guess that once you’re an octogenarian some senility may be creeping in and it’s time to “rack up the cue” as I have done, but I still satisfyingly remember the “good old days” and the good feelings generated by the kayak tours and that Friends of Galveston Island State Park never became a commercial business by either renting kayaks or charging fees.

The group still assists the park interpretive ranger in leading tours at the park, now that they’re more formally scheduled. Just call 409-737-1222 to reserve space on an upcoming tour or to arrange a tour for your group.

Frank Bowser lives in Galveston.

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