Editor’s Introduction: Jeannine Maughmer Miller witnessed her dad, Solo Motorcycle Officer Lynn Maughmer and his friend, Homicide Detective Jimmy Jones undertake the very first Texas Water Safari in the spring of 1963. Years later, after her retirement from HPD, Jeannine was inspired to do a book recounting what happened. “It’s a great adventure story,” she said. “It shows the triumph of the human spirit. They had no idea how grueling it would be. They had enough dried food and jerky to get them through. Their oar broke and was crudely repaired. Some people capsized and lost their food. They didn’t.” With that intro, here’s the story of the story with no end spoiled.
Police officers of every shape and size from every generation usually have a passion for adventure – particularly when the risks are by choice and not their chances with a dangerous street thug.
A grueling, character-testing challenge opportunity waved itself into the imagination of one Lynn Maughmer, a solo motorcycle officer from the sixties and member of a solid blue family that has produced – so far – four generations of HPD personnel.
Retired HPD Officer Jeannine Maughmer Miller, wife of another one of the bright blue brotherhood and sisterhood – Sgt. Frank Miller, was so taken by her dad’s 1963 adventure that she has penned a book poetically entitled Blood, Blisters and Blasphemy.
It’s on Amazon.com for $8.99 (paperback) and $5.99 (Kindle).
Off to a Great Adventure
I predict HPD’s adventurous souls will groove on this adventure centered around the Texas Water Sufari, an annual event that tires you out and frustrates even the most competitive of these souls who read this memoir.
The safari, then and today, is billed as “the toughest canoe race” anywhere, not just Texas or the U.S. No one argues this point, especially those who have endure the 500-mile trek from San Marcos in Central Texas to “the shy little town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast.”
We’re talking paddling and sailing a canoe down two rivers with nature’s obstacles such as whitewater rapids, multiple portages and what safari promoters call the “soul-sapping Texas heat.” Then don’t forget the five different bays where competitors must “set sail” to cross.
Jeannine describes the rules as “simple” but, man, simple gets directly to the point – competitors have to stow their own 12-day supply of food, drink water purified by pills and cannot, CANNOT accept any form of help from any third person. If you capsize and lose all your food in the water, you are on your own – with no weapon but a pocketknife.
Lynn Maughmer must have wanted some escape from the pavement of the Gulf Freeway to the waterways of Texas. And, of course, he had to recruit a partner, in this case his great friend Jimmy Jones, an HPD Homicide detective.
Jeannine the daughter tells the story of Lynn’s “recruitment” of Jones as Jones was working an extra job at the UH bookstore. The two-man team captain underplayed the length and breath of the safari as Jones smoked one of his many cigarettes.
Maughmer casually mentioned to the Homicide detective with the one-after-another smoking habit that it might want to cut back.
“Why?” Jones inquired.
“You might want to get into shape.”
Gradually, Jones learned “the true facts” and felt he had been fooled.
Nobody Chickened Out
“Five hundred miles down two rivers, across five bays in 12 days!” His eyes widened, and his voice went up an octave. “This is the little canoe race you want me to go on with you?”
“I never told you how long it was. You just assumed it was a weekend,” my father replied as he pretended to thumb through a nearby book.
“Are you nuts?” Jimmy paused and shook his head, as he looked through the rules.
“You son of a bitch!” Jimmy accused. “You registered us before you even asked me about all this.”
“If it’s too tough for you, Jimbo, I’m sure I can find someone else to go with me,” my dad teased.
Continuing to read, Jimmy said, “Twelve days!
Right now, you have to figure no police officer is going to chicken out of a challenge posed the way Lynn Maughmer put it to Jimmy Jones.
At the time neither man even owned a canoe, a kayak, a dinghy, a homemade skiff, or any of the other acceptable alternatives. Lynn found one second hand and with a welder’s help made it more comfortable for the long haul with rowing seats. This made their boat heavier for the numerous portage efforts over the 12 days.
Jeannine describes the cast of characters in just enough detail that you feel the excitement and camaraderie that were present these many years ago. When she was in Juvenile years ago, she must have been known for succinct yet thorough offense reports. This is a fast read that keeps you guessing whether Lynn and Jimmy – termed “the coppers” by spectators – will make it to the finish line ahead of the other 57 competitors.
There are capsizes, fits of exhaustion, typical Texas spring weather (bad) and other obstacles that will keep a reader on the edge of his/her rowing seat. I refuse to tell you the end but will say that for all this thankless journey over the two rivers and portaging through the woods, there is no monetary reward or even a sizeable trophy with a brass canoe at the top.
There were a few prizes but, overall, was it worth it? Read it to see!
To say you finished, well, that’s more than most canoe navigators can say. To finish ahead of all the others? Man, that’s true championship material and one heck of an unforgettable event.