June 21st may mark the official first day of summer, but for many, the celebration of summer began the last day of the school year. No more tests; no more grades; no more studying. And I’m just as certain students celebrated the school year ending as much as the teachers did.
I know the students are happy because I, too, was a student once. That revelation may come as a shock to many of you, but if you were able to ask any of my old school teachers, you can bet they’d say they remembered me. Just as I claim it took me twelve long, hard, difficult years of struggling to complete Athens High School, those teachers would claim they remember twelve long, hard, difficult years of struggling that coincided with my twelve. Ironic, ain’t it.
Anyway, I got to thinking back to the days when the only worry I had was what I wanted Santa to bring me for Christmas. Hey! June was NOT too early to begin thinking about such an important event.
When not thinking of Christmas, though, I was playing in the sandy road that ran in front of my house. I fondly remember when my nephew Mike, or Tommy and Bobby, also nephews, would visit. Occasionally, all three would be visiting at the same time which was a real treat for me.
Wearing nothing but pants, we’d be up at daybreak taking advantage of the shade the sweet gum trees provided. We began building cities and roads with our toy trucks when the shadows were at their longest. But as the sun rose, we followed the shade as it shrank our playing area. By eleven o’clock, we would have to find something else to do for the sand would become too hot for us.
After lunch, though, we’d head to White Creek. Now folks, you want to talk about fun, White Creek provided everything an 8-year-old’s imagination needed.
Nekked as a jaybird – yes, I know it’s spelled “naked” and pronounced “nay-ked”, but to us old country boys, it’s “neck-ed”. Some called it “butt nekked”, but my mom frowned upon my use of the word “butt”, so we used the term “nekked as a jaybird”. I have always suspected the jaybird wasn’t too fond of the phrase, though.
Regardless, we would go to our favorite spot just above the old wooden bridge my dad had built. Here, White Creek made a 90 degree turn and was the location of a hole of water deep enough for us to swim in. Cows loved the spot, too, as huge oak trees provided ample shade and helped keep the water cool.
I must point out here that ol’ Merriam Webster’s definition of “swim” and mine differ. You see, our swimming hole, at its deepest spot, was perhaps two feet in depth at the most. So our swimming was nothing more than jumping from the top of the bank, some 6 to 10 feet in height, into the water and splashing around.
And no, the reason I’m the way I am is not because I dove headfirst into the shallow creek too many times! It only took me a few times to realize the rocks and creek bottom were not going to become any softer. My head did, though. Regardless, as yet no one has come up with the real reason as to why I’m the way I am. You figure it out!
Back to the summer and the imaginations of us 8-year-olds.
The mighty and undefeatable U.S. Navy had huge battleships and submarines docked at various “piers” in this area of White Creek. Of course, in reality, the battleships were pieces of 2X4’s with one end sharpened to a point with my dad’s old hatchet. Submarines were old broken hoe and shovel handles that had been salvaged and “reconditioned”. A few chops with the hatchet and the splintered end was smooth enough for our navy.
Dirt clods, which were bits and pieces of crumbling soil from where the cows had worn trails in the sandy creek bank, were used as bombs. We would sit on the bank several feet away, and toss our “bombs” at the Nazi naval fleet. Small clods made the neatest smoke clouds in the water after “exploding”.
You know, thinking back to those days, we never lost a naval battle. Well, on second thought, yes we did. But it was only when the cows came to drink that spoiled our battles. You see, cows have no respect for U.S. submarines and battleships. And their “bombs” would completely wreck a naval harbor.
Having the soft mud of the creek bottom squish up between your toes is one thing; having the deposits left by cows do so is something else.
Galen White is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. Visit bossierpress.com to see more from Galen.