In the summer, the Valley had a constant stream of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends coming to visit relatives. We developed friendships and always looked forward to their return. We were always intrigued by those who came from the city, because they knew nothing about the life we led. But of all the features in our little Valley, the creek seemed to be the most fascinating to our visitors.
I have mentioned here before that we often ‘jumped rocks’ to get across the creek or travel up and down the creek. It took a bit of skill to evaluate the available amount of dry space rising above the surface of the water and the possibility of making a firm landing so as not to end up in the creek. We did not try to wade across, because under the water, the rocks were covered by a very slick moss. Our cousin Mark from New Jersey almost always ended up in the creek at least once on his visit.
Neva’s visiting kin would often ‘swim’ in the pool of water behind her house. You couldn’t really swim there, but it was a safe bet for a place to splash around and get wet and not worry too much about safety.
Inner tubes were a huge part of swimming in the Valley. The inner tubes were truly from tires with the valve stem intact. Those valve stems could cause some damage if not careful. Down at the ‘big bridge’ the older and bolder boys would toss an inflated inner tube into the water on one side and try to jump into it as it floated to the other side from underneath the bridge. Not a safe endeavor! As far as I know none of them ever got hurt other than some long scratches from the valve stems. The creek was not that deep at the bridge, so missing the inner tube could have had severe consequences.
The favorite swimmin’ hole was the millpond. The land leading to the millpond was owned by Vernon and Ruth Esther. There was a worn path through a thicket that opened onto the rocky beach. In the summer, it was filled with kids of all ages. Towels were draped over the rocks and there were often teenage bodies covered with a combination of iodine and baby oil (yikes!) lying in hopes of getting a summer tan. This was WAY before sunblock!
The millpond floor had a gradual slope then a rather quick drop off into the deepest part of the water. On the other side, the cliff gradually sloped down and jutted underneath the water providing a great place to sit and rest. It was important to know where the cliff started under the water so no one got their head busted open.
I don’t know how many of us learned to swim in the millpond . It was where I finally got up the nerve to dog-paddle across the creek for the first time. When I made it across, one of the bullies started continuously splashing water in my face. I thought I might drown. Once I finally made it safely across and sat on the edge of the cliff, it took a long time for me to get the guts to swim back across. I am still not a terribly confident swimmer.
Further up into the holler was ‘the slickie’. It was the water hole where many of the kids from the holler chose to swim on occasion. I never swam at ‘the slickie’ so I do not know much about it.
Summer in the Valley always rang out with the sounds of kids at the swimmin’ holes. It was our way of life and a great way to grow up.