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Kids and Whitewater

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 25, 2010

as well as kayaks and Murphy's 18-foot raft supported a family expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in the summer of 1995. The adults took turns kayaking and rafting the enormous rapids of the Colorado. Brooke and Jesse Murphy were in the party.

John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran, was the first explorer to make the hazardous trip in 1869. Consider that for more than 80 years after that, less than 100 people were brave enough to do the same. And think about the courage that a couple of little kids must have to do it, even with modern equipment.

Whitewater is part of their lives. Brooke Murphy once took her kayak to show-and-tell at school. "I think the kids enjoy talking about it," Debbie Murphy says. "Not as a brag thing, but as an example of self accomplishment." She enjoys the amazement of adult boaters who see her two little children slipping down the river like otters.

"At the start I think I don't want to do it because I might drown or something," Jesse Murphy says. "But once I get on the river, I'm fine. I've been really scared, but I got over it."

When he was six years old, his folks plunked him in a raft on North Carolina's Nantahala River. "At first I really didn't want to do it," he says. "Then we went down a big rapids and I said, 'Can we do it again?'"

The four McCann/Murphy youngsters are moving into kayaking as easily as Eskimos. Their parents drifted into it more gradually. In common with several generations of Missouri canoeists, McCann cut his teeth on Oz Hawksley's canoeing guide. He was a canoeist early-on. He did odd jobs to buy his first canoe at 17, which he loaded on an old pickup at his Kansas City area home. "It was a long way to the nearest float rivers," he says. "My folks were understanding."

And in common with a couple of generations of youngsters, McCann later learned canoeing from Hawksley himself as a member of the Central Missouri State University outing club. Hawksley, a teacher there, would take intrepid students to the North Fork River for a weekend of canoeing and sleeping in primitive accommodations, where pack rats threatened to carry off anything not tied down. It was an exercise in democracy as well as recreation.

Mike Murphy started canoeing with his parents when he

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