Living By The Creek

My brother fly fishing on the creek bank

Day 225

I love to share the stories about growing up country. It was a different life then, a sheltered life I guess. It is such a dichotomy to live so sheltered yet have so much freedom. When I say we were sheltered, I mean we knew nothing about the horrors of the world. News was at 6:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M. and Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite were trusted to bring the truth to American households. Was that true? I am honestly not sure. We each decide that for ourselves.

We were spared the news. Ours was a life of simplicity and exploration, not to be tainted by the reality of man’s potential to be horrible and hate-filled. We believed in good.

The Creek

The creek was part of the livelihood of growing up country. The creek seemed to be the fastest, although not the easiest, way to get from one place to another. It was not unusual to either wade into the creek, tennis shoes tossed across our shoulders, or to jump the rocks from one side to another. We had to be wary of the moss that sometimes covered the submerged rocks — it was slick and the reason for many an unplanned fall into the creek. Especially for our cousins visiting from out of state.

On days when we were had nothing else to do (we NEVER used the term bored), we would go to the creek.

Skipping rocks was a favorite pastime. Our creek-beds and creek-banks were covered with smooth rocks tumbled over and over as the water ran from mountaintop to basin. It was not challenging to find a smooth flat rock, but finding the perfect fit for your hand was worth some extra looking. My Dad and my brother were excellent rock skippers. I can close my eyes and still see the rocks rising and falling into the water again and again.

Then of course, we loved to catch crawl-dads. There is an art to that process. Always good to have an old tin can with the lid removed. Since crawl-dads flee backwards, putting the can behind them, then placing the stick in front of them would cause the crawl-dad to scurry backwards into the can. There was always the BIG rock that housed the HUGE crawl-dad that only the most fearless child would even attempt to catch. Most of the time we let them go, other times if the size was right, we saved them for bait. We always loved to find a nest of babies to hold for a moment because they tickled when they attempted to pinch you. The pinch of an adult was another story all together.

The creeks were full of treasures. I had quite a collection of smooth glass I gathered over the years. Old broken china, broken pop bottles, and discarded jars. They were beautiful with all the sharp edges worn away from tumbling over the rocks on their journey downstream. It was so exciting to find a piece of glass with an unusual color or a delicate flower still intact on the surface.

I remember the water spiders (is this the same as a water strider?) skipping across the top of the water. The part of rock under the water was covered with periwinkles which we often pulled off, just to drop back into the water and drift to the bottom. Of course there were also water snakes (non poisonous) and something we called hog mollies (a type of sucker fish), which I was horribly afraid of. It was the fish of scary campfire stories.

Of course, fishing was a favorite pastime. As kids, we all had our first jerk poles. A jerk pole is a fishing pole (often a stick) with no reel and fishing line tied to the end. If the fish would bite, you had to jerk the pole to pull the fish out of the water. The first week of fishing season was always a big event. The women in the community made bbq and chili and sold it to the hungry fishermen to raise money for either the chuch or the community club. My brother would go out in the evening and dig for nightcrawlers to use for bait. He was always an excellent fisherman and it was not at all unusual for him to sell a can of night crawlers to frustrated fishermen from away, who could not seem to catch anything with their fancy poles and shiny lures.

Our creeks were also where we learned to swim, where we were baptized and where we chilled our watermelons for summer picnics. The water was cold let me tell you, but the creeks were the very lifeblood of everything growing up country.

I always came home on time, though. My grandfather told us if a snapping turtle got us, he would not let go until daylight. That was enough of a possibility I had no trouble coming home in time for dinner and bedtime. I guess a little healthy fear never hurt us and kept us out of harm’s way.


19 thoughts on “Living By The Creek”

  1. I do so love your stories. While I grew up in the burbs we had our share of outdoor experience. We just had to be home by dark, OR ELSE. I always made it home in time. Then we were allowed back outside after dinner with a “Stay on our street,” directive.

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  2. I am intrigued by your assurance that the water snakes were non-poisonous. Were there no water moccasins? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you and your siblings didn’t encounter any.

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    1. We lived in the mountains and the creeks were cold spring-fed streams. I never saw or heard of a water moccasin. We did have rattle snakes and copperheads, but they were more in the grasses and brush.


  3. That sounds like a great childhood, and couldn’t be more different to my own, in central London during the 1950/1960s.
    I read that you are doing a 365 challenge, from last October. I sincerely hope that you continue to carry on blogging after that, as you really do understand what blogging is all about, Maggie.
    To give you more encouragement, I am now following your blog. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thank you , Pete and to say the least I am gobsmacked. I follow blogs that interest me and never ask or expect someone to follow me back. I am always humbled when others find something of merit in what I write.

      I cannot imagine growing up in London. It is one of the places that has always held mental intrigue for me. I have never been, but hope to someday. Until then, I will continue to enjoy your blog and your short stories.

      Thanks, again for the encouragement, Pete.

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  4. Maggie this was a delightful story and beautifully written. You took us right there creekside and we got to skip rocks, fish, and hang out there with you and your brother. Thanks so sharing this heartwarming memory and place with us.

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  5. Our creek was not inviting (sulfur mine drainage) but we still played in it. I was the out of state visitor to a creek like this in Virginia. Your post brings back many happy memories from those summer vacations, Thanks!

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    1. Dan, I grew up in southwest Virginia and the pic of my brother fishing is one of the more shallow creeks where the fish love to hide amongst the rocks. It was a feat place to grow up. I do remember one year the fish died and we had to stay out of the creeks. Evidently this was caused by the railroad spraying for weeds along the tracks (which of course paralleled or crossed the creeks).

      Glad it brought back some good memories.

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  6. That was a lovely read. I felt like I was with you. Ah, good times. I have also had cricks at my houses, many times. And growing up, my grandparents lived on a lake, so my summers were spent primarily there, in the inlets, learning to fish, hunt for crawdads, and avoiding water snakes. I lived in a small town from 7?8? – 12 and I think, without a doubt, small town life is aces when you’re a kid. Given my experiences with those who stayed there, I’m not sure small town life is all that great for teens and young adults. I am personally grateful to have had a taste of that time and space. The freedom to roam from sun-up to sun-down, on foot, on a bike, on roller skates, across cricks and train tracks and knowing everyone knew me, and my daddy and it was a real sense of community you simply cannot find in the city. I think my kids had a tiny bit of that on base, but it still pales in comparison.

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    1. You might be right about the age, Joey. I left right before the teen years — and boy was that a hard transition. Going from country life to a more urban setting was surreal to me. I do miss the sense of community we had. I live in a small town now, but people live so fearful of each other these days. It is quite different now.

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