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Splashing in the water

By Clif Knight 

For the Enquirer 

  

What a relief it is to live in a home that has a central cooling system when you live in Alabama, where the humidity often hovers in the 70s and 80s and temperatures rise to 100 degrees or above during July and August.  

I am reminded of that every time I go outside to work in the garden or mow the grass. Heat stress takes over after a few minutes, and I begin thinking about taking a break indoors or under a nearby shade tree.  

Unfortunately, we didn’t have that luxury when I was a kid growing up on a farm in the 1940s and 1950s. We were happy to have a hole of water knee deep to play in during the hot days of summer. 

We were blessed to live on a farm at a branch head. Our house overlooked a swamp where freestone water bubbled out of the ground in three or four locations. The runoff formed a fast-moving branch that ran through our pasture, providing an ample supply of water for our home and livestock.  

Our main source of water for home consumption was a rock-walled spring at the foot of a bluff 150 feet from our back door. It was rumored that the spring was discovered by the Creek Indians many years before, and they developed it to serve their needs. 

My brothers and I would build a dirt dam across the branch and back up the water to a depth of three feet. We had to stop at that depth to prevent the water from backing up in spring.  

The task was not an easy one. We formed the 20-foot dam with scrap lumber, and we used picks, shovels and a wheelbarrow to fill in the 2-foot wide dam.  

We’d jump in and cool off after dinner before returning to work and after supper before going to bed. It was also a good place to go and cool off after working up a sweat playing pasture ball with our neighborhood companions.  

We had several options involving deeper water on Sundays or times when we had two or three hours of freedom away from the farm.  

A fast-moving stretch of deep water on Fox Creek, fondly called Suzy’s Hole, was an excellent opportunity for diving and swimming when we had the time. To get there, however, we had to walk half a mile and wade the creek for a mile and a half.  

As we got older, we were able to use the farm tractor for transportation.  

Our ultimate choice of swimming holes was East Mill Dam on Mad Indian Creek.  

The pond was 8-10 feet deep and had a roadside opening. A steel cable was attached to a huge oak tree. By using it, you could swing out over the water and drop 30 feet before hitting the water. Non-swimmers would experience the thrill of the swing by holding on until the cable returned to the roadway.  

Periodically, a non-swimmer would lose their grip on the cable, fall into the water and have to be rescued. 

The force of the waterfall opened a deep channel of water below the dam and created an additional opportunity to float, swim and play water games.