The old farmhouse and barn are gone; the crossties from the railroad are probably being used for landscaping or maybe fence posts. The rails were probably melted and new stuff made from the steel. The old swimming hole survived; it is still where it was on my last visit there more than a half century ago.
We just called it “Coon Creek”; a deep hole in a small creek by the Santa Fe railroad in southwest Pottawatomie County. To a bunch of country kids that didn’t know about backyard pools, and the closest public pool was 20 miles away, it was a good place to swim; bathing suits were optional.
I have a lot of memories of time spent there. Most of those memories are good; a place to cool off on a hot summer day, a place to make big plans for the future or lie about yesterday or to just kill an afternoon with good friends.
One of those memories wasn’t funny at the time; about six of us decided it would be more fun to swim than to go to class. We were very surprised when the school superintendent walked under the tracks and around the bluff and said in that all too familiar voice “You guys get your clothes on and drop by my office when you get back to school. I got to sign that big old paddle one more time.
I mentioned the thing was deep. It was real deep, probably 25 or 30 feet; one of our many little tests of skill was to touch the bottom of the thing. To prove you had been there you had to bring some mud to the top with you. Although no one admitted it I think we would agree it was very cold, dark and scary at the bottom. The return to the surface from that depth was a struggle filled with apprehension; you held your breath, you did it alone; seemed like it took forever but it was only a few seconds. I remember relief in seeing light through the surface, and the huge breath of fresh air as I wiped the water from my face and the hair out of my eyes. It was also possible to find that cold dark bottom if you misjudged where that hidden ledge was over on the north side.
Thank you Google Maps for facilitating the trip down memory lane and for the picture.
Is it OK if I move from the literal swimming hole of my youth to the figurative swimming hole of life?
My years in life’s swimming hole are not unlike those days at Coon Creek. I’ve spent time with friends, made plans for the future and yes, probably lied a little about yesterday. There were some good times and some times with my head under water but never in the dark, cold, scary deep part; I could always see that light at the surface.
Two years ago today I slipped off that hidden ledge on the north side; I was at the cold, dark, very scary bottom of life’s swimming hole. Unlike Coon Creek, it takes a little longer than a few seconds to resurface, however I could breathe, at first I had to remind myself but after a little while breathing became natural again. I haven’t done this one alone; faith, family and friends have always been there for me. I think I am nearing the surface; it is no longer cold, dark and scary and I can see the light reflecting off the surface. Some days, (today was one of those) I still need to wipe the water out of my eyes (literally) and brush the hair out of my face (figuratively on that one). The years have changed the surface and I am trying to adjust to those changes.
I forgot to grab that handful of mud but trust me I touched the bottom.
To Conner; I think you would have loved the camaraderie and competition of Coon Creek but I don’t know if a three shower a day city kid could have handled the mud. I love you and miss you every day. Give MawMaw a hug and tell her I love her and miss her.
It has been a very long day; thanks so much for listening and for helping me up off the bottom.
Good Night and God Bless.