“FISHIN’ POLES AND SWIMMIN’ HOLES”
Written by Stumblin’ Jimmy Watermelon
enerally being one of, if not the absolute hottest, month of the year, August also is the harbinger of a child’s last free frolicking days of summer before school begins anew. These are those days when, in my childhood and I imagine still now, kids come full tilt cramming every drop of the free-for-all fun they can into each day like the beat of a snare drum’s fast roll.
For me and my friends back in my time, the water was most likely surrounding us, with a jon boat to float on or all amongst us as we swam or just lazily floated. From our parents, we all had been dutifully taught how to swim and learned fairly well the language of the river. It was common sense. You live on the coast. You go in the water. You learn how to swim and how that water works. That’s not to say that accidents didn’t happen, but their instances were rare. Somehow, with all our adolescent fool-heartiness included, we survived it quite well. Like the wild trumpet vines, by this time of summer, we were all well flourished.
There are two things that spring always to my mind when I think back on those times. The first is fishin’. Lord how I loved to go fishin’ in those rivers and creeks. To me it was like a summer time Christmas in that you never knew what the waters beneath would bring you and it was always a pleasant if not exciting surprise. It wasn’t always fish either.
I remember lying back in our jon boat, floating along the incoming river tide, still as I could be, just letting a cool morning breeze wash over me. The only sound was of the moving air brushing through the tall salt grass reeds along the bank. All of a sudden there was a splashing calamity the likes of which I had only occasionally heard. From around an approaching bend, it was coming my way. In the blink of an eye, three porpoise rounded the turn. They jumped and rolled and slapped the water with mighty tails. They were doing some fishin’ of their own I imagine; herding bait fish up for a true coastal breakfast. Then the wildest thing happened. I’d heard Daddy talk of his witnessing such a sight. With what seemed all to me like bright smiling faces, they took off past me flying, their bodies almost full above the water (planing, it’s called) with their tails in a blur pushing them forward. What a thrill. I don’t think there’s a video game out there now that could even come close.
When Daddy and I or me and the boys went fishin’ it was cane poles (we called them ‘bream busters’) in the pond, or old reliable Zebco reels and solid fiberglass rods for the salt-water river. Daddy was a master with his open faced Mitchell reel and a spanking new ‘state-of-the-art’ hollow fiber rod. It was his pride and joy; along side me, of course. With all its fanciness and his casting grace, on more than one occasion, I hauled in croaker fish and sailors-choice so steadily that he never got his line wet. He spent all his time helping me unhook my catch and rebait the hooks. To look in his face, and I can see it even now, he was beaming. Selflessly he was caught up in the joy of it all. Often I’ve found that the greatest part of fishin’ is way more than just the fishin’. Good times, Lordy those were good times.
And swimmin’ holes, kids just don’t know what they’ve missed these days. Times being what they are and sadly or not, most swimmin’ holes are on the creek- winding boarder of somebody’s well manicured back lawn. The universal old long hung ropes from times gone by, with oversized knot punctuating their bottom end are most all fallen away and long gone. The bank shaded oaks whose out stretched limbs they were tied to are still there, still draped in Spanish moss, but the children that climbed and swung and jumped from them have all grown and the ones to come after have seldom taken their place.
Today there’s almost a pool of some sort or other in every yard. There are water parks with slides and rides and walk-through fountains. Well I’ve got to admit, that doesn’t sound too bad either. One thing about that old swimmin’ hole, most times you had to get a mighty smart stinging tetanus shot at the beginning of summer before you ever got to go in. In those days, most folks along the creeks and rivers just ran their septic line right out off the bank. Of course we could only safely swim on the in-coming tide; no telling what was riding along the outflow. Come to think of it, those swimmin’ pools and water parks don’t sound all that bad. Fishin’ can’t get any better, but I guess there’s always room for progress somewhere or other.
Fishin’ poles and swimmin’ holes, however they are, wherever they are, whatever they are, enjoy ‘em while you’ve got ‘em. It’s August and times will have flown before you know it.
Going Coastal —
Twelve Months And Then Some of
Stumblin’ Jimmy Watermelon
James Lynah Palmer Jr.
Sea Oats Publishing LLC
A collection of short stories straight from the heart of the Lowcountry. Stumblin’ Jimmy shares adventures from his life that include many colorful characters. His tales have such wit and drip with so much southern charm that he has been called the twenieth century Mark Twain. Jimmy is a monthly contributer to the Bluffton Breeze Magazine and his work is in syndication. To purchase “Going Coastal” email to: email@example.com or call (843)762-2606.