When Schemes ‘Gang Agley’:
Formulating Plan B
In his famous poem, To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest With The Plow, Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), wrote, “The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley…” Translation: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” (The original poem is difficult to understand without a commentary or special dictionary at hand.)
On Monday, a week ago today, eight young men and three of their newly-appointed adult leaders (including me)—all from the Bellevue First Ward— were planning to embark on a canoe trip down the Niobrara River in less than 24 hours. We were to depart Bellevue at 3:30 am the next morning and make the six-hour trip to Valentine in north-central Nebraska. At midafternoon that day Ben heard that large brush fires had engulfed grass and woodlands along the Niobrara. All campgrounds were being evacuated. Our best laid scheme had suddenly gone awry.
Fortunately, even though Ben had been the new Young Men’s President for only a week, he had already scouted out alternative plans. He was concerned that the current drought might have caused the Niobrara to be too low for an enjoyable canoe trip. He was prepared. He had alternative plans in mind. He scrambled to make one of them work.
Unfortunately, the ongoing drought has caused all other rivers within reasonable travelling distance to be too low to navigate by canoe. Plan B for canoeing the Elkhorn evaporated into thin air. Plan C for the Nishnabotna in Iowa bit the dust as well. Plan D moved up to become the new plan B. Could it work? Ben got on the phone and checked things out. Yes, we could travel six hours west to Lake McConaughy near Ogallala and spend three days canoeing around the lake and camping on its beaches. The lake is Nebraska’s largest reservoir, measuring 22 miles long and about four miles wide. It's surrounded by the prairie-covered sand hills of Western Nebraska. It's sunny beaches are lined with groves of tall cottonwood trees. Lake McConaughy is sealed off from the rest of the world by cliffs, steep hills, and endless prairie. It's its own world.
Eight boy scouts and three leaders spent three full days canoeing in deep water rather than dragging aluminum canoes weighed down with camping gear over rocky shallows in the Niobrara River. We camped in some amazing sites. Who knew that Nebraska has broad, secluded, sandy beaches? Who would guess that you could find a vacation spot in Nebraska where vehicles with Colorado license plates are legion?
We had an adventurous week. I'll write about it tomorrow.
Earlier this month my friend, Tim, gave me a book. It’s Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Tim suggested I read the chapter called, “If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade” first. I did.
Last week the Niobrara fires handed us a lemon.
Making lemonade out of lemons is a great idea. Often when our best laid schemes go awry, dreaming up, scouting out, and putting a new “Plan B” into action is not just a great idea, it’s the only good idea. Why grumble? Why give up? Our Plan B was likely a far more enjoyable adventure than Plan A would have been. And as for the original Plan A? Well, there’s always next year.
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Bellevue, Nebraska 30 July 2012 ©2012 Daniel Kemper Lubben