Recalling the center of the summer universePublished 2:24pm Friday, July 4, 2014
The center of the universe is different for everybody.
For some it’s their family; for others it’s football or baseball. For some, it’s their work, their garden, their church or the greenbacks in their pockets.
When I was growing up, inner tubes were the center of my summer universe.
Most sunny days were spent floating on an inner tube in any fill of water bigger than a mud hole.
Riding my bicycle to Mr. Gene Rodgers’ filling station to get an inner tube pumped up was a rite of summer.
All the young’uns in Brundidge got their inner tubes, free, from Mr. Gene or from the Gulf Station on the north end of town. At the first hint of summer, the onslaught started. Usually we had to wait but we didn’t mind. There was something magical about seeing an old rubber tube come to life as air was pumped into its inner being.
Each tube had a bright, orange patch – the passport to summer fun. The patches came in gold, foil tins and were shaped like elongated diamonds. Mr. Gene heated the patches and sealed any leaks in the inner tubes, making them seaworthy.
The more patches your inner tube had, the higher your standing in the tubing community.
Watching the patchin’ and the pumpin’ was part of the inner-summer fun. Getting the bulky inner tube home was the hard part. Riding a bicycle with a bulbous inner tube around your middle or slug over your shoulder was not an easy feat but, in time, we all mastered the art of bicycle tubing.
The trick was to step in the tube, pull it up to your ribcage, waddle onto the bicycle seat, push the tube as far to the back of the bike as you tummy would allow and push off.
Back then, bicycle handlebars were wide and high but still barely reachable over the inner tube, but once we got to pedaling good, we rode “No hands!”
Riding inner tubes in the city pool was fun. We could sit with our behind ends in the donut hole and splash and spin or we could pull the tubes over our heads and paddle around like turtles in their shells.
Jumping off the low dive through the floating tube was fun. Diving through was daring but trying to do either one from the high dive was just plain dumb. And there were some dumb young’uns back then. The Brundidge City Pool high dive was the prototype for the Olympic high diving board. Even Greg Louganis wouldn’t have tackled that one.
But the most fun was going to the river. Every now and then, we got to go to Beck’s Mill, a spring-fed pool was so cold that some people had been known to get frostbite just sitting on the edge with their feet dangling in the water.
Beyond the confines of the ice water pool was the mighty Pea River. To put your inner tube in the river was the ultimate summer experience. At least, I thought it was until I got to tube in my grandpa’s fishpond.
The workers who lived in the tenant houses on Pop’s place would slip away during the hottest part of the day – and while Pop was taking his afternoon nap – and go swimming. There were three ponds but hardly anybody fished the back pond.
Tince was my friend and I’d let her use my inner tube. Sometimes, I’d sneak back there and watch all the fun Tince was having, splashing around in the pond on my inner tube. Tince said it was the most fun she’d ever had.
I wanted to have the most fun I’d ever had so, one scorching hot day, while the world was taking a nap, Betty Kay and I grabbed our inner tubes, ran through the pasture, down the hill, past the first pond, around the second pond and plunged our little behind ends into water on our inner tubes.
Tince was right. That was the most fun I’d ever had.
But Mama had good eyes and she had a good nose on her. I didn’t know that pond water dried stiff on your clothes or that it had a stench about it.
But, I did know where the switch bush was. And, I marched right out to it.
However, I still “inner” that day in memory as the most fun I ever had.
Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com.