Navigating Discourse Genres:  Shows two small kids paddling a canoe

Parallel Texts in American Sign Language and English
on Canoeing in the Boundary Waters

with Eric Larson and Jenny Stenner
Interpretations by Anthony Verdeja


Narrative Texts

Narrative: Recounts a series of events ordered more or less chronologically

The texts on this page are recountings of personal experiences of canoe trips in the Boundary Waters. To see the English transcript and ASL outline, use the menu at left.

English Narrative

Eric’s story is of trying to avoid a long portage by taking a canoe upstream on the Basswood river. This ordeal is undertaken with his wife, Amy, on her birthday.

This length of this text is 7:23.

Click below to open the English Transcript

English Transcript

I had an experience some years ago–I think it was in 1990, August of 1990, it happened to be–with my wife. We had the good fortune of spending 6 days together in the Boundary Waters and it happened to fall over her birthday which is August 8th. And, uh, I had as so many times, decided to ford a long portage by walking upstream and making our own little route out of the day. We were fording a 300 plus rod portage, which is a pretty extensive portage. And I thought we could take some time off of it. She wasn’t real comfortable with that situation, but we agreed to follow on and do it. And uh, we happened to be going upstream on the Basswood River, instead of downstream, and I didn’t realize that until we had gotten into it and committed. But uh, the portage consisted of pushing the canoe up a series of small falls and lining around some rapids, and we made our way. At some points, we had to take bags out of the canoe and fishing rods, and whatever else–miscellaneous gear that we had–and make our own paths through the woods which can be pretty tough, as you know if you’ve spent some time in the Boundary Waters. It’s pretty thick forest. And, uh, as we made our way through. I’d go up maybe 50 rods or so, with the canoe, and then come back to see how Amy’s progress was, and it spent, we probably spent 3 1/2 to 4 hours. And when we started this adventure, it was right around lunch time, so…Two hours into it, the frowns and the long faces started to show up. I remind you that it was her birthday. And, as we neared the end, the tears started to flow a little bit. And uh, when I would come back, and I would reassure her and try and say, “Come on honey! This is a good day, and anyday in the Boundary Waters is a good day, no matter what the adversity or inclemency is.”

Um, and as we showed up toward the headwaters, where the river begins from a large body of water, we had just finished and come out into the opening. There was a lot of relief, and uh, we kind of soothing wounds in the water. We were kind of scratched up, and so on and so forth. And we were kind of sitting silently and soaking it all in as we rested before we made our way out in the big water to, to find a campsite, and it just seemed like, oh, we might have wasted a whole bunch of time. And we started to hear some ruckus and racket coming from an old, what looked like an old overgrown beaver lodge off on the side of this little nook where we were sitting. And we started hearing this little “E-e-e-e-e-e! E-e-e-e-e!” Chattering sounds, and sure enough the grass was moving, and we both were keenly interested in what was going on there. And all of a sudden, some otters started showing up and goofing around and frolicking, literally, playing with one another, on top of the beaver lodge, and around. They didn’t know we were there at first, and then we decided to start moving around, and then they realized we were there. And, uh, didn’t seem fearful or intimidated by our presence at all. We couldn’t have been more than 30 yards away from them. We were pretty close so we could watch them. So we decided it was time to move on and we had some, we kind of felt like that was a neat way to end that trying experience. And as we loaded the canoe, the otters kind of really watched us and we made a few noises as we were putting things in. We got in the boat and we eased our way over closer and were able to get a couple of photographs which was really neat and we still have.

And uh, the bay was sort of a long narrow bay and as we paddled, we weren’t in any hurry, we knew that we were going to find a campsite. The sun was starting to set. It was really quite peaceful. And as we paddled, we continued to look back and watch the otters, and it was just amazing. The three of them, it was as if they were escorting us out of the bay, kind of saying farewell. The three, if you’ve ever watched otters swim, it’s like a periscope, and their head sticks up and they just kind of move along this way. Well, all three were right next to one another, kind of swimming along. And we paddled real slowly. We weren’t in any hurry because we were just marveling at this experience. And not sure why it was happening, but happy by it nonetheless. And as we just about turned around the corner, we looked back and there was a big sloping piece of granite, or rock of some sort, and the otters all climbed up on that and three of them sat, the three otters that were watching us, sat and just kind of, it was like they were just watching us and if they had the will to do they were saying, “Hey, have a good day. Let the rest of the day, be what it may and be good.” And, uh, so we turned around the corner and sure enough there’s a gorgeous campsite right there and uh, everything kind of all laid out and in sight.

Amy decided, we put up the tent as we do, we get everything dialed in first and then worry about dinner after that. She said, “I’m gonna go get some rest” and went in and took a rest. Right about dusk, when the mosquitoes had really started to come out, I had packed a brownie mix in packing the food, and though, I’m going to surprise her in making a little cake, a brownie-quasi cake, kind of thing. And uh, as I thwarted mosquitoes and tried to make this cake on a sputtering stove, my little fire on top of the potlid, baking surround baking-type thing going on, I was just absolutely overwhelmed by mosquitoes, and it was one of those nights where the mosquitoes are just as thick as you can ever imagine. And right as I had finished everything up and I thought, OK, I’m going to surprise her and I said, “Amy!” And I didn’t get a response.
“Amy!” No response, and I thought, OK, I’ll just start singing Happy Birthday, and I cracked into “Happy Birthday…” I started singing a little birthday ditty on the way over and as I got to the vestibule of the tent, I thought I heard something and stopped singing, and sure enough, there was “unnnhh, shoo” She’s snoring away.

So the birthday adventure kind of ended in that way, but uh, that was a story that sticks in my memory quite well as a situation. The boundary waters is a magical place in a lot of different ways, and uh, I think it’s just a story that was fond for me, I had fond memories about, and I wanted to share that.

ASL Narrative

Jenny’s story is of the first time she brought her two children on an extended trip into the Boundary Waters where they moved camp each day, instead of just staying in the same place the entire time.

This length of this text is 6:27.

Starter question: Using the transcript and outlines as guides, go through the texts and notice where digressions and asides occur, that is, where background information is given that breaks away from the actual flow of events. What features of language mark when the speakers go off and return to the point?

Click below to open the ASL Outline

ASL Outline

Narrative – ASL outline

(Note: These outlines were created after the texts were signed. They represent an outside attempt to organize the information in the text, and were not used in anyway to prepare for creating these texts.)

Formatting Under Construction

  • Family enjoys going to BWCA
    • For natural environment
    • Goes every year
  • Have two children
  • Haven’t gone on canoe trips with a lot of traveling
    • Hard to manage portages and packing gear while young
      • Last summer did trip with more travel
    • Son is 8 and can manage backpack
    • Daughter is 6–can carry school backpack
  • I carried Duluth Pack
  • Another family of four came
  • They brought the food
  • I carried clothes in my pack
  • Arrived at the BWCA
    • Off the Echo Trail
      • Hegman Lake
    • Had to walk 1/4 mile from parking area
    • Trip went from Hegman lake to other lakes
      • Have to portage between lakes
        • Portage means carrying boat on shoulders
      • Chose Hegman Lake because of short portages
        • Didn’t want long portages with kids
    • At Parking area, sent kids off
    • Experienced with being in BWCA
      • Know what is safe or not
    • I carried gear down to lake
      • Not very far
      • Calculating how many “knots”
        (Editor’s note: The term she is searching for is actually “rod” which is the measurement used for portages. One rod equals 16-1/2 feet .)

        • Unsure of the math
        • Wanting help on figuring out equation
          • Never mind
        • Felt like 1/4 mile
      • Brought canoe first
      • Got Duluth Pack Second
      • Have to be careful of my back
        • Some can carry both pack and canoe
        • Trip went a long well
          • One day particularly memorable
          • Happened on a big lake
            • Should know that I don’t always require my son to wear a life jacket
              • He’s good at swimming
              • More tough on my daughter about life jacket
              • She doesn’t like wearing it
              • Set up in the boat
              • Me in back
                v My daughter in the middle
                ß My son in front
                v If daughter in front, canoe tips way back ß Kevlar canoe, but still hard to paddle
                •    Better to have son in front plus day pack to balance weight v Very windy that day with big waves
                y? Heading back at the end of the trip ß At first, son very excited about canoeing
                v Cocky about his own ability y? But had only gone on shorter trips
                •    Toward the end of trip, started to get crabby about having to paddle ?    This day was the worst
                v Couldn’t go straight into the wind y? Had to zig-zag
                ?    Boat was unbalanced v Wanted to daughter to move up by son, but didn’t want her to move and tip the boat
                ß Boat was stable, but I was paranoid ?    Got son’s attention and asked him to move forward and paddle
                •    He was obviously angry
                y? I was frustrated v Yelled at my son and called him lazy
                ß Can you imagine me saying that to my own son? •    Ordered my daughter to move forward to balance the boat
                v What would have taken 2-3 hrs in calm weather took all day y? Sometimes we got stuck in currents which made it worse
                ß I was paddling on my knees which hurt but I didn’t care •    Finally, gave up on trying to make a direct crossing
                v Hugged the shoreline until we made it around
      • y? Made it take much longer ß We made it to shore
        y? My son was exhausted
        y? I felt awful v I apologized to my son for my outburst
        ?    He accepted my apology v The memory still bothers me
        y? But it was a horrible situation trying to make that crossing