Down on the creekbank
For Larry Shiver and Russ Dunnum of Brundidge, the unexpected and unlikely splashing and laughter coming for a creekbank was all that was needed to begin a sentimental journey down a slow moving, muddy creek on a hot, summer day.
Shiver and Dunnum grew up worlds apart.
Shiver in rural south Alabama and Dunnum in the fertile farmlands of Wisconsin.
Shiver says “creek” and Dunnum says “crick.”
But no matter how they say it, they both smile at the thoughts of the time they spent as young boys at the old muddy swimming hole.
“Clearwater Creek ran just down behind our house near Hamilton Crossroads,” Shiver said. “Me, Joseph and John Faircloth and Jerry Flowers spent half of our summers down at the creek. We’d use anything that we could to dam up the creek to back up the water so it would be deep enough for us to swim. We’d use logs, sticks, tin, dirt, just anything that would hold the water back. When we got the water backed up, we had a fine swimming hole and we’d jump in.”
And bathing suits?
“What for? We were back in woods and nobody was around but us boys. We were just having fun.”
Of course, they had to share the muddy water with a variety of snakes, some poisonous and some “not so” poisonous.
“We didn’t worry about snakes,” Shiver said. “We just ran and jumped in ,and they scattered. There was hardly a day that went by that we didn’t see a snake or two. But we left them alone and they left us alone.”
And then there were days when the boys left the snakes. Period.
“Some days we’d get to the creek and there would be a bunch of snakes sunning on the bank, and we’d decide against swimming that day.”
Dunnum said Wisconsin had plenty of good “cricks” to swim but the water was probably a bit chiller than the waters of the sunny South.
“We had to ride our bicycles a mile or two to get to the ‘crick,’” he said. “And, we didn’t have to worry about snakes. We didn’t have any poisonous snakes except a few rattlesnakes, but you hardly ever saw one.”
The diving board for the boys from Wisconsin was the creek bank or a stout limb from a nearby tree. And the water was plenty deep for diving.
“There would be deep holes washed from flooding, and we’d swim and dive in those holes,” he said. “We didn’t have to dam water to swim.”
The deep holes “ditched” out by flooding waters were big enough to float inner tubes.
“We’d get old, worn out car inner tubes and blow them up and float on them,” Dunnum said. “That was a lot of fun.”
Shiver scoffed at the thought of floating in the creek on an inner tube.
“Mules didn’t have tires,” he said, laughing. “Tires were too expensive for us. We didn’t have anything like that.”
But they had something maybe even better.
“When we got a chance, we’d go swimming at the pool at Beck’s Mill,” he said. “The pool was fed by a spring and it was as cold as ice. You couldn’t stay in that pool long, or you’d freeze to death.”
But the most exciting “water park” was the mill pond at the old Prestwood Mill at Roeton.
“The mill pond was a huge pond and what we liked to do was try to go to the bottom,” Shiver said. “But the mill pond was so deep that nobody ever made it. I’m not sure there’s even a bottom to it.”
Shiver and Dunnum said fishing and gigging frogs were favorite nighttime activities at the creek.
“We’d put up pup tents and try to catch frogs so we could have frog legs,” Dunnum said. “ We’d catch crickets for bait and fry the fish we caught.”
Shiver and his friends set hooks to catch catfish and would check the hooks morning and night. He said there’s never been better catfish than the ones the creek gives up.
Neither Shiver nor Dunnum said their mothers worried about their whereabouts.
“They just let us go and told us to come home for supper,” Shiver said, laughing. “They knew we were down at the creek and could look after ourselves, and I guess we could because we never had anything bad happen.”
Dunnum said his summers were also without incident.
So, their days at the creek are nothing but fond memories, and their wishes are that all little boys could spend at least one day swimming in a creek and wading in the mud. That’s real summer fun.