At a fork in the Coal Run Creek, just a few miles from Nebo, Illinois, was a watering hole where we played swimming games and had lots of fun during the summer.
Our house was the place to be. We lived on a gravel road in a house devoid of indoor plumbing, but complete with goats, dogs, cats — and cousins. Our cousins loved spending time at our house.
The hole was about four feet deep in the middle, 15 feet long, and lined with gravel. We needed a spotter to watch for snakes at the ripples where the creek branched. The trees shaded the water and the bank.
One day, we — my brother, sisters, cousins and me — were given permission to go swimming, so we went to the creek. We were having a great day, playing and splashing, when we suddenly heard Mama yodeling. In no time, she walked up with my baby sister on her hip and a pillowcase over her shoulder. We were thrilled she had joined us. While some of us were busy giving Mama wet hugs, others took the baby swimming.
Out of nowhere, we heard Daddy’s voice a second before we saw him walk into the clearing, grinning. Now we were really excited! My father couldn’t get a word in edgewise as we bombarded him with “Daddy, look what I can do” and “Uncle Junior, look at me.” He clutched his chest and rolled his eyes, making the appropriate exclamations until we were all laughing so hard our sides hurt.
Daddy turned to Mama and mentioned that we looked hungry. Next thing you know, he was building a fire pit. The pillowcase held a skillet, along with fixings for a poor boy picnic. Mama fried up eggs, fresh from our hens, along with pan-fried potatoes. Then we roasted weenies, which we ate on bread smothered with homemade butter. We didn’t have a churn, but Mama used the shaking method, and it was delicious.
It was a day to remember!
Mama was always concerned we didn’t have everything we needed. I never saw a lack. We played barefoot, as shoes were for church. We ate what Dad hunted, what we grew in our garden, eggs from our bantam chickens, milk from our goats, and blackberries and morel mushrooms from our woods. I think we had all we needed.
Thinking about the days of my youth makes me wonder if that old swimming hole is still there.
Monroe City, Missouri
Looking for more stories of fun around the swimming hole? Read Memories of Swimming Holes.