Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I love to swim

I love swimming. Always have. The only problem is, I love swimming only in pools where I can see what is in the water. Which means many lakes and oceans and all sorts of wonderful Louisiana places are out of the picture for me.   Oh, I can sit on the bank and sit quietly, very close to the shore, waist deep, where I can keep an eye on my surroundings, but that is about all. And you can forget about water skiing or other water sports where I have to be IN the water. They are high on my “not to do list.”
  Well, there is a history behind this and I shall share.

My actual first swimming was in the Amite river near Independence, Louisiana where my grandparents lived.

 I don't remember my  age at the time, perhaps around 5. My Grandpa George, a Methodist minister, 
“took me down to the river to pray”

..well, took me down to the river to teach me how to swim.

  First we went through all proper swimming motions like kicking and maneuvering my arms.  I practiced holding my breath and all the things one needed to know when learning to swim. Then the two of us went into the river and he held his hands under my belly and let me practice. This was glorious. "You are a natural,"  he said.  "A real fish." 

The next day we returned to the same spot on the Amite River. This time, Grandpa had a long rope coiled around his shoulder. I asked why and he told me he would let me know at the proper moment.

  After reviewing the previous days lesson, Grandpa said to trust him as he tied one end of the rope to a tree and the other end around my waist before throwing me in the water.

Trust him!
This was the proper moment?
That's when I learned to pray...down by the river!

  As he held the other end of the rope he shouted, “Swim. Use those arms. Kick. Hold your breath. If you go under I will pull you up.”
  I did.  
 I learned to swim like a fish.

Back home my first swimming hole was out at Fishville, La. It seems everyone loved going to Dean's hole to swim on the sandy banks of Big Creek. There was a wonderful rope dangling from a tree at that spot and I loved, really loved swinging from that rope and falling in the water. It was the most thrilling thing in the world to swing and drop in cold creek water.


We would spend the day there because we had friends that had a camp in the area and there was a sandy beach to play on under the bridge.  So many of my early water experiences came from Fishville.

Later we discovered Magnolia Park, in Grant Parish, not too far from where we lived in Paradise, La. It, too, had been a camping place for everyone to go during the summer. All the wealthy people from Alexandria went there, I am told, back in the 20's, to get away from the city heat. It was an enclosed pool fed by a creek and the water was deliciously cold as well. On one end was a man-made water fall where you could stand and sometimes catch a fish or two as they were forced over the fall. On another side was an eating spot with a covered area to dance and a wonderful juke box. We would go there and spend hours and hours playing croquet or swimming, or dancing. I loved the diving board and spent lots of hours in the water.

Magnolia Park

We moved to Alexandria the summer before I was entering the 4th grade. It wasn't long afterwards that we discovered Castor Plunge as our favorite swimming place. It was a large concrete pool filled with creek water.

Castor Plunge

 We would go for the day, bringing food to grill. First thing in the morning, Mama would place a watermelon in the cold water, wrapped in a clean feed sack and tied to a stake.  It would be so cold that it was almost frozen by the time we were ready to eat.

I loved swimming. I loved to stay in until my lips turned blue. I was a fish. I loved going under water and swimming up to someone and scaring them. I loved diving and cannonballs.....everything about the water in creeks and lakes ….
until swimming in Castor Plunge!
  Castor Plunge was the source of my troubles with creeks and lakes.
 Well, an incident at Castor Plunge was the source of my troubles.

Toward the end of summer as I was exiting the pool by the ladder I felt something wrap around my leg. I screamed and quickly---well more realistically—flew out of that water.

 A water moccasin had wrapped itself tightly around my leg and I was screaming and kicking and flailing and running while that snake quickly unwrapped itself and hastily wiggled itself back into that water.

How I wasn't bitten is beyond me.

  Since that day, I have never...well, almost never....swum in a creek or a body of water where I can not see what lurks below. My swimming days were ruined. Just like that. In a flash I had gone from a carefree swimming monster to a coward afraid of getting in a creek, or lake, past my ankles.

Just like that, my whole life changed in an instant. One little moment in time that lasted, probably, less than a minute, took away a happy boys joy.

  Eventually I was able to trust swimming again thanks to my daddy deciding he wanted to learn to play golf and joining the Country Club.

I spent my days in nice chlorinated pools of water.
I'm still a fish when it comes to swimming.

Today I swim laps at least 3 to 4 times a week and adore diving to the bottom to retrieve things.
 I'm like a little boy when it comes to swimming.....
But only in pools where I know what lurks below!!
 Call me chicken, I don't care.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Senate Campaign
Note*  Unfortunately there are no pictures with this blog since all of our family photos of us growing up have somehow managed to disappear.  My apologies.  There were some good ones.  Hopefully they will appear someday buried under an avalance of boxes.
The 1960 Ford station wagon slowly wound its way around Rapides parish. It was fall and the leaves were changing. The heat of summer had finally burned itself out and the cool front from the north left an excitement in the air. I was a teenager and sitting alone next to my father. We were politicking. I was thrilled to have his sole attention. Only I didn’t. His attention was on politics. He was running for the state senate and I, being his eldest son, was delegated the honor of accompanying him. I wished we would talk but he wanted quiet so he could gather his thoughts for the next small town political stop. It didn’t matter, I found it hard to talk with him anyway. Besides, I was the one chosen to be with him, not my older sister who was the apple of his eye, nor my younger brother, his usual sidekick and Jane was only 7. I was the one alone with him. Me. Today, I was the favored child.

The car was light gray. It had a blue stripe down the middle of each side and in bold red letters outlined in black were the words: “Vote Cecil Blair, #56, State Senate.” “A man of the country people” was printed below in royal blue. We had the horse trailer following behind. The letters “Camellia Shetland Pony Farm” were plainly written with the image of a beautiful sorral Shetland pony painted on its side. It reminded me of the gaudy gypsy wagons of the past. On top of the station wagon were two rather large loud speakers. On the seat between us was a collection of 78 records and a turntable balanced with books. My job was to make sure the records continued playing while holding the microphone and keeping the player steady so the record didn’t skip. It was also my responsibility to hold the microphone next to the record player perched precariously on the seat between us. I was barefoot in the car, so I held the microphone with my toes, a menuver in which I was adept. Some times we would play The Yellow Rose of Texas. The Mitch Miller version. I never understood why daddy loved that song so much. He wasn't Texan and he certainly wasn't running for office in Texas. Today, I carefully placed the record on the turntable, choosing Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, daddy's favorite,most of the time. The words, I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill woke up the critters in the woods as we wound our way down country roads.

The song echoed off the pine trees surrounding the roadway as we slowly drove through the woods of Rapides Parish. People ran out of their houses waving at us. I guess if you had an image of me on the front seat using my toes to balance the equipment while placing little white horse stickers on the political cards (a sign he was the “white horse” candidate) then you would definitely think the circus had come to town. Occasionally Daddy would take the microphone and ask people to meet us at a certain familiar spot in the community to hear “Cecil Blair, the country man’s candidate.” Some got in their cars and caravaned behind us. We became a parade. This stardom could go to my head, I thought.

All day I would alternate holding the microphone and balancing the record player between my toes while placing stickers on the cards, until the appointed time arrived for the town meeting to meet the candidate. I did not like these town meetings, partly because I had to put my cowboy boots back on – never mind that the children we saw were barefoot – and partly because my job was to take care of the mean-spirited kids while the grown-ups talked politics. I didn't feel like the favored son at those times.

Our Shetland pony, Hambone, was with us on this trip. While daddy shook hands and hugged babies, I took the pony out of the trailer, gave him some water, untied the two wheel cart, put his bridle on and hitched him up while children lined up squabbling as to who would be first. Then with my cowboy hat firmly in place and a straw in my mouth – I guess that made me look country - I would ride no more than two at a time around the grounds listening to them threaten me with the loss of their parent’s vote if I didn’t ride them longer. It was during those times that I realized Iwas invited only to take care of the music and children and to make him appealing to the voters. I was the token politicians good and obedient son out to show the world what a wonderful senator he would become. It was a rude awakening to discover that I was not the shining star of this political circus, I was only the opening act. But, you know, it didn’t matter. I was the one with him. Not my sisters nor my brother. Me. I was the favored one.

© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.

Friday, July 3, 2015



On a hot summer night
When the moon is bright,
If you squint your eye
You might just spy
Old Alphonse
Walking his dog.
They travel with ease
Neath the swamp and the trees
On a hot summer night
by the pale moonlight
Old Alphonse
Walking his dog.

You might see him row
In his wooden pirogue
His dog going slow
With eyes all aglow
Old Alphonse
Walking his dog.

So if no one's around
When you hear a strange sound
Don't let your heart flutter
Or your mouth start to stutter.
It's just Alphonse
Walking his dog.

Yes, we know it's absurd
This story you've heard
This dog named 'Tater
Is really a gator
Old Alphonse is just
Walking his dog.


© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.