The Joys of Country Swimming Holes

The author recalls childhood memories and reflects on the pleasures of swimming in a farm pond in the summertime.

| August/September 1992

  • 133-lastlaugh
    One of the major appeals of swimming holes over public pools: no rules.

  • 133-lastlaugh

Orrin just buzzed down the road on his motorcycle, a large tractor inner tube slung around his shoulder. The picking kids are on lunch break and are having a free-for-all in the farm pond, refreshing sport following four ninety-degree hours in the bean fields. Last guy in's a rotten egg.

Summer was a succession of swimming holes when I was a kid. The earliest was a wide place in the creek fringed with willow and wild iris, where bottle flies circled and bull frogs abounded. Depth ranged normally from six inches to three feet, and the bottom was gumbo. There was a granite boulder from which we launched our "belly whoppers" or performed the classic "ham 'n' eggs" (hold your nose and jump, in sitting position.)

The only time the creek was deep enough for serious swimmin' was immediately following a gully washer, and quick as the storm subsided we snatched our sun-bleached suits from the line and dashed for the pasture.

There was a secret clearing in the thorn apples where we changed our clothes. "Bathhouse" was not part of the vocabulary, nor was "toilet." When you felt the urge you merely scampered off deeper into the thorn apples.

I learned to swim in that mudhole at "high tide,' and the moment when my feet first floated free from the bottom stands out as a milestone in childhood. Even today the sight of a pasture creek at flood stage stirs barefoot yearnings within.

Neighboring our farm was a spacious park cemetery, with large lagoons fed by our creek where it had been dammed at the property line. As soon as we could swim, outgrowing the pasture mud, we appropriated the rear lagoon as our swimming hole. The bottom was just as gooey, but when you could swim, the bottom was irrelevant. We centered our swimming around a couple of big rocks that lay just beneath the water's surface. (Plymouth Rock and Devil's Island, we called them.)

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