Growing up in the country means you are given a lot of freedom. There was no helicopter parenting. After a certain age (which I recall being quite young) we were set free to explore and make our own way. We knew when and where we might encounter snakes and the tall tales of snapping turtles would help ensure we were home at dusk.
It’s funny that I do not remember much about lunch, although I remember our breakfasts and dinner very well. Maybe this was because lunch was never a big deal as we most likely ran in, grabbed a sandwich and then we were back outside. Staying in was a bit of a punishment as we saw it. Outside was where freedom lived.
Parents today would shudder at the thought of their kids leaving the house, being out of sight for most of the day. We walked the railroad tracks (yes, there were trains that ran often on an unknown schedule) but the tracks were the fastest way to get where we wanted to go. We ran through the hills, climbed the side of the mountains and learned to swim all on our own – aka no parents required.
Creeks, like rivers I assume, have places where they are very shallow and places where they are deeper. The water seems to gather in seemingly still pools in the deep locations and these deep spots are called ‘holes’ because, well, they are holes in the ground covered by water. Each hole had its own attributes named according to purpose, look or surroundings.
The Baptizing Hole
My grandparents had a nicely located parcel of land catty-cornered (an American misspelling of the word cater-cornered I just learned) from where their house sat. At the back of that property was our pet cemetery. The land then dropped down a good 15 feet or so with two paths that led to the baptizing hole (the upper path and the lower path). These paths were created, no doubt, by frequent travel.
The baptizing hole as you might have guessed, was the place where our churches baptized their parishioners in the days before churches had indoor baptismal pools. I will write more later about religion in our small community. Of course, baptisms did not take place every day, so the water served other purposes – fishin’ and swimmin’.
The baptizing hole had a small rocky shoreline, and the water tended to be more silty with a loose pebbled floor and unsettled dirt. The hole itself was set off to the side while the creek continued to flow beyond. It was more shaded with overhanging trees and the steep face of the cliff from the hillside, so the water stayed quite cold. It was not unusual to have small fish swimming around your feet, with the occasional crawldad scurrying by. Hog-mollies were known to swim in the moving water. For these reasons, older and more experienced swimmers did not care so much for swimming here.
I can vividly remember my grandfather taking me here to swim when my older siblings were off swimming in the millpond which I could see off in the distance. He always made me wear tennis shoes in the water so I would not hurt my feet. I had a green one-piece bathing suit that tied around my neck and he was always so concerned to make sure I was dried off well afterward, so I wouldn’t ‘catch my death of cold’. Recalling this time with him and how very much he loved me has caused tears to well up in my eyes. I led a charmed life, for sure.
Tomorrow, I will continue on my journey through the valley with a stop at Valley creek and the Big Bridge. We might even make it to the millpond.