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by Steve McCadams

 Coming this weekend to a boat ramp near you. It's the "launch and laugh" show, brought to you by the boat backers and recreational army that's about to descend on area lakes and rivers.

 Depending on your perspective, boat ramps are access areas that provide a place to launch your fishing boat, pontoon, ski rig, personal watercraft or sail boat. They even meet the needs of big houseboats and yachts.

 Each holiday weekend sets the stage for the show. Chances are, you've been both a participant and viewer of the spectacle.
 The production starts out with the strong desire to have fun in the sun. After all, the lake is the place to be when the summer begins and kicks off the swimming, boating and camping season.
 From far and wide they come. Some are alone while others travel in convoy. Either way, the show will be well worth the price of admission.

 Pull up a lawn chair and sun umbrella near any boat ramp and you'll have a front row seat.

 It all begins as the recreational desires tug strong on the free time. Getting to the lake after a busy workweek seems to create a rush. For some, the visit to the lake is long overdue as it may have been Labor Day of last year since the last visit.

 Kids are hollering, dogs are barking, things are flying out of the boat as it goes down the road. Sound familiar?

 In a mad rush to get to the boat ramp you swing through the parking lot and cut a sharp corner tearing off a light on the trailer and clipping someone's bumper in the process. A crowded area awaits you as you asses the damage.

 That it's often hot and humid doesn't seem to help the situation. After waiting in line for several minutes your time finally comes to pull up and take your place to launch.

 Then comes the backing spree. Although conversation has detailed the do's and don't of backing the boat trailer to the ramp, when the time comes it' s like a young pilot taking the first solo.

 Normally, the man of the house gets in the boat as the wife takes over the controls of the vehicle. Backing a car or truck is not necessarily a natural occurrence for women. A steep and narrow boat ramp doesn't help things either, not to mention other less patient boaters waiting in line to set sail.

 Now comes the descent toward the water with the man yelling directions. Slowly the boat trailer begins it's journey toward a jack-knife. A bent trailer tongue is a sure thing as the tires of the trailer jump off the ramp into a crevice, sending the trailer frame scratching concrete emitting an eerie sound.

 Embarrassed by it all, she attempts to pull up and straighten things out. Kids still squalling, dogs still barking. Mirrors hide the real view of what lies behind.

 Tempers sometimes flare as second and third attempts fail to line out the rig toward the center of the boat ramp. And then, success appears in range when the husband turned captain remembers he forgot to release the tie-down straps on the trailer. The motor is started and running but the boat is still attached to the trailer and must be pulled out in order to release the straps.
Added to it all is the plug. Someone always forgets to put the plug in when launching the boat. It's a helpless feeling. Combine frustration, neglect, forgetfulness and stupidity.

 By this time the lake outing has taken a different turn and it might be a good time to seek marriage counseling.

 It goes from bad to worse when a stubborn outboard motor that's been sitting up all winter fails to start. The more you turn the key and choke it the weaker the battery. A horrible sound of a dying battery rings all around the boat ramp. Folks stop and stare.

 The list goes on and on. A boat owner always has a lot of ups and downs. Finding a place to park once you've launched. Flat tires on the trailer or running lights that were working fine last year but somehow fail now.

 Despite all the challenges, a big boating weekend is here and it's time to kick off the summer seasons where rest and relaxation dominate. The smell of a campfire and smoke drifting past with the fragrance of grilled hamburgers signal enjoyment. You say to yourself this is indeed, the pace to be.

 There's a lot of hurdles to cross before having a fun filled holiday weekend on the lake. Just the increasing price of gas has some boaters scratching their heads in disbelief. Yet there will always be a crowd on holidays as the lake provides so much to so many.

  As you head to the launch ramp of your choice this weekend remember to have patience with those fellow boaters on the ramp of confusion. Remember that others are watching you too and most all have had the same problems at one time or another.

 If you get bored and want to watch the show, just grab a lawn chair and land near a boat ramp this weekend. Rest assured there's a show about to take place before your very eyes, especially when the wind blows or a quick thunderstorm sends the army back to shore for shelter.

Steve McCadams
 is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT.