WAGRAM — Though they may have gotten off easy with respect to the strength of the sun’s rays on a thickly shaded river, the 27 people who set out to become “sunburnt boys” — and girls — on Saturday all went home with the title.
More than a dozen canoes and kayaks put in to the Lumber River at the Chalk Banks Access Area north of Wagram in the inaugural Sunburnt Boy/Sunburnt Girl Lumbee River Experience, for which Saturday morning’s temperatures never hit 90.
The event raised more than $4,380 for the annual high school student exchange between Scotland County and Oban, Laurinburg’s Scottish sister city.
“It’s a great place to go; the park’s a wonderful thing and these guys do a great job with it,” said Bob Dean, who in the hope of snagging a brim, bass, or catfish trailed a fishing line in the river as he paddled down in a bright orange kayak.
“The Oban exchange is something that we’ve known about for a long time, we’ve got friends whose children have been able to participate in it and I’m willing to support that.”
Participants, many ferried in vessels provided by event organizers, paddled out of the river at U.S. 401 an hour after starting and four miles — by river — from the access point.
“It’s kind of like a railroad track — you can’t make a wrong turn,” directed Beacham McDougald, a river enthusiast and
Upon returning to the state park for lunch, they were christened “sunburnt boys” and “sunburnt girls,” hearkening back to Scotland County native John Charles McNeill. McNeill, who was considered North Carolina’s poet laureate well before the position was officially created, made the river’s charm the subject of a poem more than a century ago.
McNeill’s great-niece, Mary Wayne Watson, greeted the boaters with a recitation of McNeill’s “Sunburnt Boys” and completion certificates signed by Raleigh attorney Robert L. McMillan, Jr. whose 1941 river voyage from Wagram to Georgetown, South Carolina qualify him as a “Sunburnt Boy Emeritus.”
Participants included visitors to Scotland County from western North Carolina and even Arizona. Volunteers were supplied by the Laurinburg Rotary Club, Laurinburg-Oban Sister Cities’ Association, and the Young Professionals’ Network.
“It was beautiful; we had a really good time,” said Tracy West of Laurinburg. “My family’s visiting from Arizona, so we went out with everybody. We’ve been wanting to try the river anyway.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.