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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Creek fun and frights

Friday, May 20, 2011

The creek cutting through our farm pasture in loops and curves was the source of entertainment for three generations of our family. It wasn't long after their parents bought the farm that my husband and his siblings discovered all the fun they could have down by the creek. The water ran deep and cold during the spring thaws but gradually lost depth as the summer progressed. Some very helpful beavers built a dam at a bend in the creek creating a deep pond which begged for swimmers. No one in the family had formal swimming lessons but after the first summer of splashing and floundering around in the beaver-pond they claimed to know how to swim. Their parents, who probably thought they were fishing on the banks, would not have approved of this particular recreation for safety reasons, but the kids found a way to enjoy their private swimming pool often.

Just outside the back door of the house was a small building called the wash house. It was a working room and home for their mother's wringer washing machine, rinse tubs and the water heater (a copper boiler on a woodburning stove). It was a rustic building with exposed ceiling braces. Those beams were convenient spots to tuck away underwear worn during swims in the creek. Then on washday the hidden items could be snuck into the washing machine when mom was busy hanging clothes on the line. Their outings on the creek were never discovered by their mom as far as any of them knew.

Our children were the second generation to live on the farm with the crooked creek. They, like their dad before them, spent many hours in the summer on its banks fishing for chubs to feed to the farm cats. I didn't worry about them when they went to the pasture to play because it was always a group activity and the creek was too shallow to be dangerous. Now I am told only parts of it were shallow. It was quite deep between a couple of the bends for most of the year.

One spring they built a raft with dreams of floating down the creek until it dumped into the Floyd River. I was invited down to see their wood platform atop empty barrels and watch them launch their creation. It rammed into the bank at the turns and ran aground in the shallowest spots. The final blow was dealt when the raft finally got to the end of our pasture and was stopped by the fence.

More stories about their adventures in the pasture have surfaced in recent years. They tell me while playing Lewis and Clark next to the spring-flooded creek one of the explorers was nearly lost. He was standing on an outcrop of ice when it suddenly gave way. He fell into the rushing water. His heavy winter clothing weighed him down and he felt his body lock up instantly from the cold. The other explorers ran ahead to a spot where the creek narrowed and fished him out. He still doesn't know how they did it because he must have weighed a ton in his soaked clothing and he could do nothing to help himself.

What amazed me when I heard this story was that I was just as much unaware of what my boys were up to as was my mother-in-law before me. They thought it was important to keep the whole thing a secret so their games could continue. Once again the wash house, now used as a storage shed, helped them out. One of the boys went into the house and threw clean clothes out of the upstairs window so the would-be Meriwether Clark could change there in the wash house before coming inside to thaw out.

Winter found the children sleighing down the hill above the creek, the iced-over stream the goal at the end of the run. The frozen creek was also used for hockey games. Their equipment was primitive or non-existent. The only padding was their heavy winter clothing, the sticks were their dad's golf clubs. The puck was a cereal box giveaway. The tin canteen decorated with pictures of Snap, Crackle and Pop was filled with water and left outdoors to freeze. That game proved to have its dangers, too. Several front teeth were the casualties when one of the players used a slightly too aggressive swing.

Our grandchildren's enjoyment of the creek was more closely monitored than it was for the previous generations. We took them for walks along it or we stood with them on the bridge over it to toss sticks, weeds and leaves off one side of the bridge. Then we hurried to the other side where an arsenal of rocks waited on the ledge. The object of this game was to pelt the debris when it floated out from under the bridge. A good hit led to cheers and mini-celebrations. This third generation of our family had safer and more innocent fun related to Willow Creek than did their predecessors but their stories about it pale in comparison. mdroder@yahoo.com

By Mary S. Roder
Musing With Mary


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