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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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