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Houston, Texas

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The Cooler
October, 2010
Ken Anderson

Introduction by John Rich:

In late September, four paddling buddies headed up to Minnesota to spend a week canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a national park covering one million acres of land, 1,000 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe trails.  The four participants were Ken Anderson, Joe Coker, Dana Enos and John Rich.

Upon my return from that trip I posted some pictures of myself on Facebook paddling a tiny little canoe on a lake, and those images invoked a lot of amazed response from people, both paddlers and otherwise.  Everyone wanted to know where we got our hands on that miniature bonsai canoe.  So what follows is that story, as told by the proud new owner, Ken Anderson.

 John poses with
Ken's new canoe
Casting off

From Ken Anderson:

On the way to the Boundary Waters we walked into the Duluth Pack Store in Duluth, Minnesota, and noticed a "cooler" identical to the one pictured above, except it's green.  The sales people told us it was one-of-a-kind, made especially for them by Wenonah. They were quite clear it wasn't for sale.
Two+ weeks later we're in another canoeing-oriented store, where, guess what, we see a cooler identical to the one in the Duluth Pack store, except it's red. Both the Duluth Pack's cooler and this store's cooler contained discounted sale items.  Essentially both are used to display sale items rather than as coolers; we suspected their real mission in life was as coolers because of a drain plug.

Joe Coker left us at this point for Houston and missed the "action" which followed.

John and I left the retail store and went into their used-item store next door where we found, on its side bearing the marks of a very used cooler, yet another "one of a kind" baby-canoe.  The cashier said it wasn't for sale.  Me, being the sensitive south-side Chicagoan that I am, said; "Says who?"  She promptly phoned her boss only to find it was the store owner's personal cooler and wasn't for sale.  I told the cashier the owner was the decision maker here (his wife was out of town) so I asked her where the owner was.

Another call to her boss.  Turns out he'd gone home for the day.  Her boss told her to tell me yet again it wasn't for sale.  I told her I'd be back tomorrow.

Next day, different cashier, a bit more assertive than yesterday's.  She phoned her boss to find out if the cooler was for sale and, if so, how much the owner wanted for it.  An offer came back, I accepted, and the deal was struck, EXCEPT I told the cashier I wanted to switch the green cooler in the used-item store (it looked like it ran Cottonseed rapid once or twice) for the red one in the store.  I told her a switch was necessary because the green one was without a drain plug.  She phoned her boss and told her we were coming over to switch coolers.

In the retail store we walked to the pristine, red cooler, took the sale items out, took it off its rack, put the green one on the rack, dusted it off as best one could, and began putting the sale items back into it.  We even asked some of the sales staff to help.  The store manager came over, wanted to know what was going on, we told her we'd bought a cooler and were simply replacing the red one (the one with a drain plug) with the green one (the one without a drain plug).  I told her as proof of the transaction I had a sales receipt.  She looked at me, at her staff switching things out, and asked to see the sales receipt.  She looked at the sales receipt, looked at the somewhat experienced cooler now replacing the pristine cooler, looked sternly at me, and said: "Does (the owner) know about this?"  To which I said: "Of course!" Then she said: "Well, OK!"

And we got the hell out of there with a cool cooler made specially for me by Wenonah... it's one of a kind you know.

John tested it as soon as we got back to camp (therefore the pictures).  After "Richly" testing it we concluded it does not work as a canoe.  He made me promise to leave it to him in my will.

Post script by John Rich:

Regarding the testing of this bonsai canoe, I'd like to tell you it's lightweight, fast and nimble.  Unfortunately, of all those attributes, all I can say is that it's lightweight.  I made three attempts to get afloat in this miniature Wenonah, and it was extremely unstable - I tipped over immediately and got wet every time.  In the photos, above, I'm upright only because the hull is resting on the gravel bottom of the lake from my weight!

I think perhaps Ken should issue an open challenge to anyone who thinks they can stay upright in this 6-foot boat.  Succeed, and you'll be the envy of the entire Houston Canoe Club! 

This thing is like a puppy - it's impossible not to fall in love with it.

 Ken Anderson