It's been close to 20 years since that raw, drizzly day in east-central Kentucky, but its memory still gives me shivers.
I was working on a profile of muskie fisherman Steve Feaster, and had accompanied him on a half-day fishing trip to Cave Run Lake. We launched the boat in a light, misting rain.
After fishing the lake fruitlessly for a couple of hours, Steve suggested we try a tributary of the Licking River downstream from the lake. We hauled the boat out, put it on the trailer and towed it to a boat ramp next to the dam.
We arrived at the tributary after a high-speed downstream run. We picked up our rods. I watched as Steve fired out cast after cast.
After a couple of minutes, he asked, "Why aren't you fishing."
"I dunno," I replied. "I think I just want to sit here for a few minutes."
Steve stood up from his seat in the bow and strode purposefully to my position in the stern. He peered intently at my face.
"Get up," he ordered, as he opened a hatch in the deck and pulled out a set of insulated coveralls. "You're hypothermic. Put these coveralls on. No arguments."
I did as I was told.
What happened to me could happen to anyone. Hypothermia is a condition in which your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Left untreated, it can kill you.
Hypothermia occurs most often when it's cold or windy or wet. Contrary to popular belief, the air temperature doesn't have to be below freezing. According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources' publication on hypothermia, many cases develop when air temperatures are 30 to 50 degrees. Moisture compounds the problem because water robs the body of heat 25 times faster than air.