In the Good Ol' Summertime: Water Play

As a child, summertime was hardly summer if water wasn't involved in some way.  My father was a little afraid of water.  I've no idea why but he was, so we were banned from going down river with Granddaddy when he fished in the river swamp.  He also wasn't keen on our going into the swimming pool, either.  Since I've pretty much spent all my life in the country not going to the swimming pool was far more common than going.

There were other substitutes for the elusive pools in our lives like getting wet under the water hose or running through the sprinkler, all of which suited us admirably.  Not something we got to do nearly often enough because when you live in the country the pump runs on electricity and wells have a nasty habit of running dry.  Water was to be conserved...But I must say that aside from Granny I've never known but one other who had a well run dry.  Granny's wells were generally near the surface hence the running dry (you pay per foot for the drilling).  As well, she watered the cows daily so there was already a tax upon her well and electric bill that most didn't have to worry over. 

The other thing about running under hoses that draw on well water was that they tended to be icy.  I  thought this was just a faulty childhood memory until I recalled the hot summer days when Katie was little and she'd come indoors blue with cold, shivering mightily after playing under our hose despite it's being 100F outdoors.  I was more liberal with the outdoor use of water here than Granny had been, allowing a homemade slip and slide as well as sprinklers.  I just heard this week that a small amount of soap (baby shampoo for instance so it doesn't sting eyes) is what makes a slip n slide such a slippery surface.  I've stored that for future knowledge.

There was never a kiddy pool in my life but Granny did have a 12 inch deep pool at one time that she tucked under the pine trees and there we happily played under her watchful eye one summer.  I provided all of my children with small pools.  Amie was my first child and she had one of those formed plastic pools you can purchase at most dollar stores.  I recall hearing her screaming at the top of her lungs one day when I'd run into the house to fetch a cool drink...I ran outdoors thinking surely she must be drowning...No...It was the neighbor's pet pig who had decided to join her!  It was our first and last visit from the swimming pig!

Last year with Josh here, Bess and I decided he should have a pool.  He loved it.  I recall him going out in the early mornings, still dressed in his pajamas.  We were meant to be feeding the cat and dog, but Josh had three great loves last year.  One was going up and down steps, preferably unassisted.  The other was walking the entire place and I mean the ENTIRE round of the driveways which totaled about 1/2 mile altogether.  The last was his pool.  If I wasn't quick enough, and heavens help me, I never was!, he would step right over into that pool and sit down and enjoy himself mightily dipping his old plastic cups into the water and pouring them out.  Sam was telling us just yesterday how very much he is enjoying the larger pool his Gammy provided for him for his birthday this year.

Taylor too loves her water play.  Katie bought her a kiddie pool last year and this year she has a wonderful water table that sits on her back deck.

We were mostly denied pools in my childhood.  But at one time we had a baby sitter who took us, along with her children to the pool in Ft. Valley.  I had no idea there was a municipal pool there.  We couldn't swim and having inherited a bit of Daddy's natural fear of the water, we steered clear of it.  Mostly I remember the aroma of suntan lotion and the neopolitan coconut bars we used to have as a treat.

Granny decided the pool was as good a place as any to take us, grand entertainment for seven grandchildren.  She paid for our swimming lessons at a municipal pool in the town where my cousins lived.  Swimming lessons at least decreased Daddy's fears for us.  I won't say we swam like fish.  My saving grace was learning that I floated.  But it did mean hours of fun for us...and appetites that were all out of proportion to our size. We spent two or three summers going there and then Granny got a membership to the 'country club' here in Reynolds which isn't nearly so grand as it might sound.  It was just an 8 x 10 in ground pool fed by an artesian spring and it was soon discovered the water was contaminated by something that gave fierce ear infections.  Ugh.  The club house was about the same size as the pool with a row of outdoor toilets and a 9 hole golf course that looked like what it had been once upon a time, a cow pasture.  Not grand at all!

Daddy never ever chose a hotel with a swimming pool in all the years we vacationed.  We might, if really lucky, acquire a small cabin next to a rocky creek of icy water. 

We did rent a cabin at a place called Track Rock where ancient Indians had inscribed petroglyphs in soapstone rocks hundreds of years ago.   There was a small pond there near our cabin and we were ecstatic when Daddy decided we would go into the pond.  The owner assured him that he could stand up and never have his head underwater.  What the owner didn't share was that he'd stocked the pond with a load of fish he meant to raise.  I shall never forget the scream that reverberated across the hills when the first fish came up to Daddy and tested his leg to see what it was.  He screamed all the way right back out of that pond.  We children laughed so hard we got cramps and were forced to get out of the pond.  That is my sole memory of ever being near water with my Daddy.

The absolute best water in the world however, was free.  It wasn't deep but it was readily available to us.  It was the creek that runs across this property here, now on my brother's side of the place.  It really wasn't much more than a ditch in width in most places but the water ran cool and clear and shin deep through it.  We children soon found a wide place between two fields where the cows had worn down the sides of the banks and created a wider pool.

There we caught tadpoles in spring and there we played in summer.  One memorable summer we went to work damming the creek, which was no easy task as we could find only small rocks.  We soon worked out a system of using stones, limbs and mud.  We managed eventually to get the water just shy of our knees which was really deep enough for children to sit and splash at least for one afternoon.  Our dam building skills were poor and eroded overnight but it kept us occupied many days of our stay here on the place which no doubt was a huge relief to Granny who must have found herself overwhelmed at times with seven grandchildren getting into mischief.  And we were very content to start fresh each day with our dam so we were well occupied and only visited the house for lunch and dinner.

For years the creek here ran dry, so my children never knew it's great pleasures and that is much to my regret but one year, when we had had plenty of rain, my brother reported that it was again flowing nicely and it was his pleasure to listen to running water from the deck of his home which he'd built near our old play area.

I think, truly that the summer we went to the mountains for a vacation the most disappointing part of mine and John's stay was that the creek, clearly pictured in the photo display of the cabin we'd rented was actually photographed from a cabin a good deal nearer the creek than the cabin we'd rented. I couldn't even hear the trickle of the water from our perch high on the hill side.  Nor was there a clear path down to the creek.  I was mighty disappointed.  I did finally manage to go down that snaky muddy trail to the creek but found the banks far too steep to allow me to go down into the cool amber water.  It was however, a triumph to have gone down that hill and back up it again because it was quite steep and I was out.of.shape.

It's no secret that even yet, we spend most of our vacations at the beach, within view of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and I personally love nothing better than to go down to that beach and play in the water or walk along the surf.  I might be in my fifties, but I'm still a child when it comes to summer and water play. 


Lana said...

Our five grandchildren had an absolute blast in Lake Keowee last week. We did not swim off our dock because it quickly drops off to 20 plus feet deep there but went to the county park where there is a sandy beach and gentle slope into the water. In fact, all the adults had a great time, too. It is a mere $2 per car to use the park for the day. I hope we can get over there again this summer just for a day trip with the local grands.

My late in-laws used to live on the north fork of the French Broad River in NC. They definitely could hear the water since they had a huge waterfall right behind the house. There was a lovely shallow area where the kids could wade in the freezing mountain water. I have a bowl of smooth river rocks that they picked up in that river that I cherish. In two weeks we are going for a little get away up there for my husband's 60th birthday. I am wondering if my feet could stand that icy water.

We have a creek down behind our property but it has steep banks and is not play friendly so our kids never played back there. It sure would have been fun and I can imagine the fun you had as a child.

We are looking for property to live lake front when we retire. The water is such a calming thing for us but we are not beach people. After 3 days with all the wind and surf noise at the beach we are just worn out. When I was a teen we were 60 miles from Daytona and it was common for car loads of friends to load up and go to the beach even for one hour before speeding home so that we did not miss supper. I can still smell the Hawaiian Tropic sun tan oil!

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

Your summers in the water got me thinking about a lot of good summer memories around water.

During my childhood summers,from age 2 till 14, we spent every weekend taking our cabin cruiser on the Mississippi River about 60 miles upstream of St Louis. My Dad built our 19 ft. cabin cruiser. He was/is a talented carpenter/woodworker. We would pull up to a sandbar, tie up, and spend the weekend in the sun and river, swimming, fishing, having a bonfire. We even brought our great big Collie. At the sandbars we went to, you could walk out quite a ways and the water was clear enough to see your feet until it was about up to your knees. I usually wore a life jacket or what they called a ski belt back then. I could dog-paddle and float very well, but had seen a couple of kids almost drown either sliding out of their life jacket or being in the water without one. So I was happy as a clam while being safe, at least until I got to be about 14 years old. Then I wanted to start showing off my 2 piece swimming suit.

My Mom fished all night and all day and I fished a lot, too. Especially fun when bass were running over a shallow shoal of sand out in the water. You could see them swimming and jumping into the air. Guaranteed good fish catching.

My favorite childhood memories of my Mom, and Dad, me, and even our big old Collie were in and around that Mississippi River water.

Debbie said...

I too love the water and grew up on an island in Hawaii so we spent lots of time at the beach. We also played in mountain streams and swam in the reservoirs. BAck in those days, many of the beaches were owned privately and there were some that had to be hiked into over hot lava rock fields. Our parents just let us go since we all knew how to swim from an early age. If we were not there, you could find me at the pool or on the beach at the resort my father managed. When I was in high school, we lived near the beach for about 6 months and every day after school, if I did not have to work, you would find me swimming, body surfing or boogie boarding in the ocean. Such wonderful memories. I still, as an adult, crave being near water. It helps calm me when I am stressed out. My parents now own a home on a lake in Montana and we spend our vacations there. Heaven!

Kathy said...

What lovely memories! So glad you were able to share your love of water with your children and grandchildren.
I love the sound of running water and the ocean too.
I can't really swim very well, so I am limited to what I can do, and I don't really like pools.

Becky Gepford said...

My mother had a relative drown in the ocean when either she or they were young. (I cannot remember the details and probably was never told them since we children were rarely told upsetting or scary things) So, when we went to the beach, we could only go up to our knees under adult supervision. She was worried, she told us. Personally, I don't thing that's an all-bad rule anyway, for the Oregon Coast. The water is just too cold, and there are sneaker waves.

Well, anyway, one year we children were informed that we were learning to swim so we would not drown. My dad put us in 1 set of swimming lessons. He told us to learn to swim. He did not want to pay for 2 sets. We all did. Then, we were taken to the nearby town pool every Tuesday evening for 1 year. We were told to practice, and we all did.

It so cracks me up. How did we do that? I'm so not athletic. All of my kids and pretty much everyone else's kids need more than one session to learn. While my older sister and I still don't swim well to this day, we can save ourselves from drowning, which my dad told us was his goal. Our younger sister went on to take further training and became a lifeguard, which she did as a summer job when a teen and college student, and has used it a few times over the years until she acquired other more lucrative skills. (She is now a nurse practitioner in children's mental health and is both a medicine prescriber and a therapist and owns 2 practices) So, no more time for life-guarding or teaching swim lessons:) But she still loves water!

As a child, we also had those plastic pools and played for hours in them. I also vividly remember getting sticks and containers of water and "painting" pictures on concrete (sidewalks) with the water. It was fun.

Lana said...

Becky, We did a lot of water painting too and I used to give my kids water and a brush and tell them to paint the house. It sure did keep them busy.

Our kids were all born in Florida and baby swim lessons are common but we did not do them because they were expensive. But, we did teach them to hold their breath and wait if they fell into water by dunking them with us. We would say to get ready and then say 'hold your breath' and under we went. They all learned it pretty quick. Our oldest daughter fell in a pool when she was 4 and my husband saw her just standing on the bottom looking at him with her eyes wide open. He jumped in clothes and all and rescued her. She had remembered to hold her breath and said she knew Daddy would get her and she was just waiting.

Debby in KS said...

Growing up in Southern California, water was part of life. In fact, last year someone asked me how old I was when I learned how to swim and I couldn't answer! I don't remember ever NOT knowing how. Nearly everyone had a pool so I imagine we knew how to swim by the time we could walk! My mom is gone so I can't even ask her.

We swam everywhere. Pools, lakes, & the ocean. My family always had boats. My dad would often find a cove somewhere and just anchor it. We'd jump right into the water and swim for hours. The coldest water I ever remember was Lake Tahoe. Since it's filled by melting snow, it is C-0-L-D!!! Frigid in some parts. We were so brave (& stupid) that we'd swim out as far as we could, beyond the buoys, and get hauled in and lectured by the lake patrol or Coast Guard lol. When it came to water, we had no fear.

Here in Kansas, there are few pools. The outdoor pools at the Y are open from Mem. Day to Labor Day. I try and go several times per week all summer. I crave it. And when I get in, I never want to get out!! My best friend promised that if she ever wins lotto she'll build me a lap pool in my backyard with a removable dome for all-weather swimming!! I've never seen such a thing but I'm sure it can be designed for the right price lol lol.

Thanks for the memory trip!

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