Water seems harmless. We control it by turning on faucets, pushing buttons on water fountains, and spraying it on our gardens. Even when a pipe breaks, we call a plumber and get it back under control.

But water isn’t really harmless, and in reality, it’s more in charge of us than we are of it. Whether there’s too much or too little water, things can become deadly.

I was always taught to respect the power of water, and even though I have been a good swimmer since I was a kid, there have been times I’ve been lucky to have lived through some bad decisions – both my own and those of others I’ve had to rescue.

My wife and I lived half a block from the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels for four years, and during that time, we saw at least half a dozen water rescue teams recovering drowning victims from our little stretch of the stream.

Too many water tourists thought – and I heard a good number of them say it – that officials wouldn’t let people on the water if it wasn’t safe. That may be true at Schlitterbahn, which was just a dozen or so blocks from our house (and was fully-staffed with lifeguards and first aid workers), but once you get outside those gates, it’s a wild river with a lot of potential hazards.

I knew a guy who used to set up camp along a hazardous bend on the river and use his mask, snorkel, and fins to collect all the treasures people had lost after flipping their rafts and tubes, and it wasn’t unusual for him to occasionally jump in and extract somebody who had gotten tangled up in the root system of the cypress trees that line the banks and channels of the Guadalupe as the powerful stream flow trapped them in the gnarled timber.

Central Texas lakes and streams are currently at high but receding levels, but conditions are still dangerous for boats and small water craft. A number of news reports from last week involving water rescues serve to highlight that fact, and if you’re on the water and not paying attention, no matter what your experience level, you could still find yourself in some trouble.

The Brazos River running through Waco is still muddy and over the banks, and there is submerged debris that can puncture rafts and tubes, not to mention disabling an outboard motor’s lower unit. A damaged craft is at the mercy of the water – which doesn’t care about you one way or the other. You don’t want to go over the low-water dam under the control of the river. That’s why I saw all those water rescue trucks hauling bodies out back in New Braunfels.

Seasoned boaters know what to look for and use caution in unfamiliar situations, and there have been good reports of catches from those who have been lucky or resourceful enough to get on the water. Stripers, largemouth, catfish, and other game fish are still prowling the waters in Centex lakes and rivers. They don’t stop eating just because the water is high – in fact, their feeding intensifies, especially in newly-flooded areas.

Officials expect – barring any more major rains – that things will settle back to normal in the upcoming weeks. If you can find a way onto the water, by all means, do it. The fish are out there as hungry as ever. But make sure you’re prepared with a Plan B and maybe a Plan C just in case you get overtaken by the power of moving water.

Flapjacks were flipping

It was a great Saturday morning at Stilwell Retirement Residence, as the annual pancake breakfast fundraiser pleased the palates of hundreds of folks in support of retired teachers. Celebrity servers from the world of media, entertainment, and politics dished out delicious homemade pancakes and sausages, and my daughter Haley and I were honored to join them for our 10th year of serving.

Special thanks to fishing guides Clay Yadon, John Gilbert, and Greg Culverhouse for their generous donations of guided trips on area waters.

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