Last week, when writing about dandelions a childhood memory was triggered. After supper my parents would take us out to the grain field to pull Herrick, also known as wild mustard, for the princely sum of 2 cents per plant.
We would place our feet carefully between the rows of grain and pull the Herrick as we walked the field. As future union members we would try to negotiate a 5 cents per head rate. Dad would carefully gaze about the field, calculating what this might cost and let us know if he would agree to our price.
After walking the fields, we would return to the house, somewhat dirty and sporting a few mosquito bites. As a treat and to get us cleaned up my parents would take us swimming. Dressed in our bathing suits and armed with a bar of soap and towels we trudged down the lane behind the barn to the creek, pronounced ‘crick’ in the language of the country.
The swimming hole was as perfect as a modern infinity pool to our young minds. Wild purple iris made up the landscaping around the pool. A culvert under the bridge provided a constant supply of fresh water. The current carried across the swimming hole and exited over a small set of rapids. This constant flow kept the water weeds at bay and the pool always fresh.
This is where we learned to swim and be aware of blood suckers. These nasty slippery bugs lived in the mud at the bottom of the pool and would attach themselves to our legs and feet. As the name implies they would suck blood from their host. Rough towels were used to remove them and we carefully checked between our toes. I should mention that we did not always find blood suckers on our bodies but still needed to be vigilant.
Dad created a child size change room for us; by modifying a faded, green, truck cab. Towels were placed over the windows for privacy and we were able to wriggle out of our wet bathing suits and into our dry clothes by being contortionists.
Today you could not pay me to stick a single toe in this water but it still provides wonderful memories of summers long ago; a time when kids were able to play in water and not fear it was polluted. No one worried that cows wandered through the creek up-stream or what other animals might have been in the water before you. Parents and children alike were not afraid of a little dirt or germs. Somehow we managed to survive without anti-bacterial soap.