Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Those Summer Days When We Swam

Dana Sieben


Practically any child who has lived in the country has had a favorite swimmin’ hole. They are a necessity, a respite from a hard day’s playing in the humidity of a southern summer. I was no different. Swimming was my favorite thing to do, and I jumped at any chance to go paddling or wading around in a clear creek, lake, or ocean.

In the south though, you have to be careful where you swim. You can’t just jump in anywhere you want. Southern waters abound with snakes, especially the water moccasin. My grandmother, we called her Nanny, used to take my sister and me fishing at the river about a mile behind the farm. Its murky, slow-moving water was home to many of the reptilian creatures, with their wide-open mouths white as snow, their fangs deadly. We learned to stay out of their way and to check the trees close to the riverbank since they liked to hang from the branches. Needless to say, we didn’t swim in the river.

Now and then, Mamma would take us to her best friend's house in Remlap, Alabama. "Aunt" Janet knew how to entertain kids. She, her husband, and their two boys lived out in what we called "the boonies" on a small lake. Mountains rolled in the distance, and everywhere you looked were southern pine after southern pine with the occasional dogwood tree thrown in for good measure. You can imagine the fun kids can have in that kind of setting: woods to explore and two really good swimming holes.

The first and most obvious of these was the lake in front of their house. A wooden dock jutted out from the muddy bank and went about fifteen feet out on the water. The patter of our naked feet would be heard running down the dock and then disappearing as our bodies went flying into the air, like Superman, and then landing in the cool, dark water with a cannon-ball splash. Giant tractor inner tubes floating on the water served as rest platforms when we were tired and trampolines when we wanted to dive back in. The lake was our second favorite way to cool off. Our favorite spot was a half mile or so from their house, down a path into a small ravine, to an area on a creek called the Blue Hole.

The creek was somewhat shallow and crystal clear, but the Hole itself was a little deeper with a large, moss-covered boulder that you could jump off of into the water. Generations before had enjoyed the waters there, as evidenced by the old, frayed rope swing hanging from an ancient oak tree on the other bank. Somehow it had been forgotten through the years until we found it one day.

There was also an old rotted footbridge across the creek. You could only cross it carefully on one beam since part of the bridge had fallen into the water long ago. Mesmerizing green water grasses swayed slowly in the current. Now and then, we would even see the occasional bream swimming up the current when we would slow down long enough to look.

We four kids were constant visitors to that wonderful place. We would spend hours there, swimming and then climbing the bluffs on either side of the ravine, little caves that were carved by the creek eons ago, and pretending we were in the Land of the Lost. As a kid, it was easy to imagine dinosaurs roaming around down there. You couldn't see the sky for all the green trees, and so it became our own little world.

I miss those days, lying in the relaxing heat of the sun after playing in the chilly waters of the creek. I miss building forts in the woods with my sister and the boys, playing hide and seek in the bluffs. And I miss who I was then--an explorer, constantly finding new things to conquer, new places to see, and something new around every corner. Those were the days that made me who I am today and they will live inside me always.

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Dana Sieben grew up in Alabama, but is currently living in Illinois. She has a BA in TV and Film with a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama. She is a member of various Internet writing forums and has recently started her own blog, Southern Gal Goes North.

© Dana Sieben

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012