My father and mother lost their first son to drowning.* Given such trauma I am thankful for the courage they showed later on. When their next two boys reached swimming age.
Tim and I loved water. If it were roomy enough to swim in we weren’t picky about the spot. Mom and dad freed us to that pleasure. . .
Farm ponds and rivers – summertime could find us and our friends reveling in them. The deep blue of rain-filled rock quarries called us. Their depths were bracing, invigorating. At the bottom of one quarry rested a long-abandoned dump truck.
Years before, it somehow descended from the quarry ridge. It rested submerged there now – still upright. What fun, inhaling deeply, diving, navigating the cab interior. Taking turns we mock-drove the old truck until straining lungs obliged us aloft to draw in new oxygen. Then back again, chasing one another through one open window and out the other.
Our favorite swimming hole by far was a pond-turned-commercial pool. A few years earlier, a visionary gentleman at the edge of town added diving boards, changing rooms and a snack canteen to his large pond. A brilliant revenue source, his family’s Greenwood Lake opened for business. It seemed every kid in Okmulgee County frolicked in Greenwood at some point before reaching their late teens.
A lifeguard pulled me from the Lake unconscious early one season. My headfirst dive might have fractured my neck. Thankfully not. The accident sprang from a miscalculation.
Swimming season was freshly opened. The winter months and springtime yielded little rainfall and the shoreline revealed it. Not factoring this, I assumed the lake owners had extended the shoreline – providing a new beach area.
I trotted onto a platform leading to diving areas further out. Stopping short of the diving boards I turned and faced the water.
In previous summers the water here was several feet deep. Being a pond, the cloudy waters kept me from seeing bottom . . . from judging its depth. There wasn’t a new beach. Greenwood was simply low. I dived into water that was inches deep.
I woke up on the grass. The lifeguard was at my shoulder. An onlooker remarked, That kid was lucky, looks like he’ll make it. Minutes later I swam from the shallows to join my brother and our cousin. Aunt Dovie’s son, Paul, was visiting us from Phoenix.
Our life’s trailways hold curious mysteries for us. At times they may link us to something – someone – beyond ourselves. I like to think a benevolent God ensured that an on-duty lifeguard was attentive – ready and alert to rescue this inattentive youngster at Greenwood Lake. I believe the same Creator gently prompted my Aunt Dovie to be attentive – on-duty in Phoenix years ago after the death of Bobby. Dovie intervening for my mother and father with words of rescue. Of life.
©2015 Jerry Lout *see Running life’s race April 7