Last weekend Jenni and I spent a day cruising Lake Keowee with our immediate family while we celebrated Jenni’s birthday. It was a day of building great memories. Even at seven months, our granddaughter loves to get in the water. I hope that doesn’t change for her.
I typically don’t think fondly of most ‘big water’ adventures from my own childhood.
Growing up in South Texas, I can’t remember that we really had access to many lakes—the largest bodies of water for us were usually stock tanks (man-made ponds for watering livestock.) Certainly nothing for which to launch a boat (except the time my cousin collected plastic gallon milk jugs, strapped them together, and set sail on his father’s new stock tank.)
I recall one time when our area received a large amount of rain, my parents and family friends allowed the older teenagers to load up a couple cars of kids and go to someone’s tank that was swollen from rainwater. (Parenting has changed a bit over the years!) I didn’t know how to swim (really still don’t very well) so my oldest brother pulled two empty plastic jugs from the trunk of my father’s veterinary car and basically told me to use them like ‘floaties.’ Then everyone else swam out into the flooded pond. At some point something brushed up against my legs. Probably a fish, but convinced it was a water moccasin, I lost my flotation devices and thrashed around in the water until a sibling saved me. Or maybe I just stood up in waist-high water, I can’t recall for sure. That began my distrust of water in which I couldn’t see my feet.
In my teen years, my father, middle brother, and I were fishing at an uncle’s tank in a very arid region of Texas. Despite the tank being miles from the nearest river, a large alligator had journeyed from the Nueces River, through the scrub brush, to my uncle’s tank. Being the youngest, I was elected to baby sit the gator and keep him busy near the dock while the others waded into the water on the opposite end to fish. I was good at my job, but after sufficiently aggravating him, the gator lunged halfway onto the dock towards me and even followed my half-way up the bank. (You now see why a bear in the yard is little concern.) I hollered to the others that I was done and they better get out of the water. This event deepened my concern about being in any water other than a nice clear swimming pool, and to this day, I don’t feel good about being in the water.
When Jenni and I moved to Conway, SC in the Low Country, a popular water recreation spot was the Waccamaw River. For those not familiar with it, this river is rich in tannins making the water look like sweet tea. (Okay, maybe just regular tea but since we’re in the south I figured it might as well be sweet.) There was NO WAY I was getting in that water and I managed to resist the ten years we lived there!
Somehow I have managed to overcome a few fears (and motion sickness) to cruise Lake Keowee now with my family. The fact that there have been no alligator sightings helps. And, on occasion, I will even jump into the water to cool off.
I’ve also learned they make adult ‘floaties’ these days that are much easier to hang onto than plastic jugs if something brushes my legs.