Monday, October 01, 2018

Monday Memories: The Creek

I’ve mentioned the creek that ran behind my parents’ house several times, so I thought maybe I should write a little more about it. Officially, on the maps, it’s the Paschal Branch of Ash Creek, Ash Creek being one of the major creeks that runs through this area. We always just called it the creek. It’s spring-fed and rises in some rugged hills about two miles west of where I grew up. One time some friends and I followed it all the way to its source in an area we called the cliffs because there were so many steep sandstone bluffs. I’ve used those memories as visual references in many scenes I’ve written over the years, transporting them in my fiction to different locations all over the West. Since it’s spring-fed, I don’t believe the creek has ever run dry in my lifetime. I’ve never seen it when it didn’t have water in it, and sometimes, during floods, it could get pretty big. It merges with the main branch of Ash Creek on the other side of the highway, maybe half a mile from where I lived then, and shortly thereafter flows into Eagle Mountain Lake.

That gives you some geographical background, but we seldom ventured beyond the stretch that ran behind the houses on the street where I lived, and that was just a few hundred yards long. In those days, of course, our parents had no idea where we were most of the time, and there were cliffs, snakes, bobcats, and all kinds of other ways for us to hurt ourselves, but we all survived with no major injuries as far as I know. The worst I ever hurt myself playing along the creek was when I ran into a single strand of barbed wire fence that somebody had strung between two trees for some reason and ripped a good gash in my forehead. I don’t know what my mother thought when I came running in with blood all over my face. I got hurt a lot worse mowing the back yard one day, though, when the mower threw a little piece of metal all the way through my leg like a chunk of shrapnel.

One of my most vivid memories of the creek involves the swimming hole, which I mentioned in a previous post. We built a log, rock, and mud dam across the creek, which didn’t stop it completely but backed it up enough to form the swimming hole. It wasn’t much of one, though: maybe twelve feet across and a foot and a half deep. In other words, you couldn’t actually swim in it, but you could get in and splash around some. I was around fifteen years old at the time.

Now, the rest of the story gets a little racy, so those of you with delicate sensibilities may want to skip to the end.

There were four of us who regularly spent time at the swimming hole: me, a girl my age, and a boy and girl a little younger. We were down there clowning around in the water one day, as usual, when the straps on the one-piece bathing suit one of the girls was wearing suddenly gave out. The front of the suit dropped, and there they were: bare boobs. The first time I’d ever laid eyes on such a wondrous sight in the flesh.

Now, lest you think this is about to turn into some Seventies porn movie (boom-chicka-wow-wow!), we were all just friends, there was never anything the least bit romantic between any of us, and she immediately pulled the suit up, tied the straps together securely, and we all had a good laugh about it. Despite that, the memory remains clear in my mind, fifty years later.

The sad part is that of the four of us who were there that day, two are gone for sure, that I know of, and the third one may be, too, because we lost touch many years ago. It’s entirely possible that I may be the only person left alive who remembers what happened at the swimming hole that summer day so long ago. But I’ll cling to the memory for a while yet, just as I will all the other memories of good friends and good days spent roaming up and down the creek.


Anonymous said...

A sweet and poignant post, James.

I find odd memories, incidents, bits of conversation, brief lost moments that might have had significance at the time or perhaps did not, stand out unexpectedly in my mind.
Fragments of a time that has passed and that I can't say if anyone else recalls at all, much less with anything like the strange elegiac significance I've somehow involuntarily given to them.
These pop into my mind pretty regularly, and always come as a bit of a surprise.

I guess part of it is that no matter how much consideration you give to what it might be like to grow old, you can't truly anticipate the reality of having lived in a world that is lost to all but memory.

John Hocking

W Robjertson said...

Very nice, James. I love your poignant reminescences -- and also those John Hocking adds occasionally as comments to yours. Today you-all have reminded me of a wonderful snippet from MacKenzie Crook's Detectorist series (which is absolutely full of the sorts of moments you often mention):

"Metal detecting is the closest you'll get to time travel," reflects Lance in the final episode of Detectorists (13 December, 10pm, BBC4). "See, archaeologists, they gather up the facts, piece the jigsaw together, work out how we lived and find the buildings we lived in. But what we do … that's different. We unearth the scattered memories. Mine for stories. Fill in the personality … We're time travelers." []

James, you and John are also time travelers. Muchas gracias!

Rick Robinson said...

Another wonderful recollection, James, thank you very much indeed.

I would have thought you guys would have tried to muck out your swimming hole to make it deeper, so actual jumping in and swimming would have been possible. Did you ever try it?

James Reasoner said...

Beautifully stated, and that last paragraph is simply wondrous.

Many thanks for the tip on the Detectorists series. It looks great and I'm probably going to order the DVDs.

No, I think that would have been 'way too much work for us. We weren't exacty the most industrious bunch.