Remember the swimming hole? I do. We simply called ours "the creek." Do you wanna go to the creek, my mother, or aunt, or grandmother would ask, and we would gather up food, blankets, towels and head to the creek, just off from the Flint River. Lots of sand and minnows. Scummy bottom in which we'd squish our toes. An old diving board on which I stood and stood (there's even a photo of me...) until I climbed down. I never learned how to dive.
Julia Nunnally Duncan remembers her creek and what she learned there. She's offered photographs, too.
I'm happy to share them with you. And if you have your own memories of swimming holes and creeks, send them to me.
My father taught me to dog paddle in Buck Creek,
in the mountain stream’s deep pool
where generations of children had swum.
There a concrete slab—
a broken piece of a long-gone bridge—
was embedded in the creek bed and jutted out
just above the water’s surface.
Algae-slick and a trick to climb upon,
this slab served as a diving board
from which we jumped into the tepid, fishy water.
I recall my tenth summer in ‘66
when my father hauled the neighborhood kids and me
in his Chevrolet truck
to our favorite swimming hole.
We sang “Li’l Red Riding Hood,”
howling as loud as we could from the bumpy truck bed
into the quiet neighborhood we passed through.
Once we arrived at Buck Creek,
my father trod downstream,
a bar of Zest soap in his hand.
Standing in his bathing trunks,
he lathered himself
while we frolicked like Flipper,
no fear of snakes or mud turtles
shadowing our pleasure.
Only a baptism might impede us;
if we saw people dressed in Sunday clothes
gathering at the water’s edge,
we waited unseen on the steep bank,
hushed by my father,
whose own father had baptized believers
in a Tennessee river.
We peered through trees to see
something we’d all experienced already
in our church’s baptismal pool.
Soon as that ritual was past,
we ran down the bank and jumped
into the sanctified water—
more like pagans ourselves—
laughing, splashing, and squirting Crazy Foam
on each other’s heads.
Julia Nunnally Duncan enjoys writing about her 1960's childhood in McDowell County, NC, which was predominantly a textile and agricultural area at that time. Her parents were hosiery mill workers, and her family lived in a close knit neighborhood where folks raised gardens, kept livestock, and watched over each other's children.
Julia still lives in McDowell County with her husband Steve and daughter Annie. Her latest book is a rerelease of her 2006 novel Drops of the Night (March Street Press, 2011).