Paddle to the Sea

We put years of blood, sweat and tears into our writing, and if we aren’t one of those few who have best-selling success, from time to time we wonder if our stories and books make any difference to anyone but ourselves. They do.

My friend and former traveling partner, Tonya, is a third, fourth and fifth grade teacher in a small central Idaho school. During our years of traveling to rodeos and barrel races, she impressed me many times with the innovative ways she inspires her students to enjoy learning.

I heard from her a few months ago, and the story amazed me, still does. Here is the message she sent.

“Seven years ago I read my class Paddle to the Sea. We made little canoes and wrote our names on them along with a “Help me get to the sea” like the story. We put them in the Weiser River during the spring  run-off with great hopes of hearing they had made the journey.


Today a former student, now a sophomore, came to my room with his boat that had been returned to him. It had made it to the Puget Sound. How amazing is that. He was grinning from ear to ear.”

That little boat went down the Weiser River to where it spills into the Snake River at Ontario, Oregon then was carried northwest through central Washington by the Snake. At Pasco, Washington the Snake empties into the Columbia. From there the boat sailed west to the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. Somehow it made it to the north border of Washington State to Puget Sound.

Paddle to the Sea is a 1941 children’s book written by an American artist/author, Holling C. Holling. The story is about a boy in Canada who carves a wooden model of an Indian in a canoe and sets it free to travel the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Who would have thought a book written over seventy years ago and seventeen hundred miles away would affect children living in a tiny Central Idaho town? I know from her comments that all the children and many of their parents were excited at the appearance of one little boat made by a fifth grader, so many years ago. The kids will never forget this.

So keep writing, write what speaks to you and see if your boat will Paddle to the Sea.