Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lake Murray Memories

We’re approaching the hottest part of summer, a period of time which is often referred to as “Dog Days”… mainly because is too hot to do anything except lay around like a dog. (I make that up. I really have no idea why it’s called “Dog Days”. I try to make up and publish a new and different theory every year, just to give myself something to do during the time period.)

There’s really nothing much that is suitable to do during Dog Days. It’s a bad time to take up salsa lessons. It’s not the right time for hog-wrasling. Wrong season for duck-hunting. TV reruns are dwindling down. Loitering on Main Street has been outlawed in most jurisdictions.

There is, however, one pastime that was practically MADE for Dog Days. It’s SWIMMING!

Just about everybody grew up going swimming somewhere… in a favorite lake, pond, or watering hole. For me, that favorite place was good old Lake Murray… way back before it was what it has become these days.

Back in the early 1960’s, my watering hole was still in its infancy. It had only been around for 30 years… far younger that its current age of nearly 80 years. There were lots of landings which dotted the shores of the lake, but not very many houses.

We may not have lived at the lake as many do now, but that didn’t stop us from driving to the lake every Sunday afternoon after church.

My family had a place at the lake – a place, not house – where a dozen families would congregate on weekends.

Just thinking back to those days brings back a lot of memories:

-- Do you remember that you could never go at into the water for an hour after you ate lunch? (I think it would cause some sort of “cramps” if you swam too soon after eating.)

-- The boats were a lot different then than they are now. Back then, the boat was powered by a 25 horsepower Johnson which was started by putting a rope… over and over until it finally cranked. Of course, it was an out-board, because what else would it be?

-- The swimming entertainment device of choice was a flotation implement known as an “inner tube”. You could choose your inner-tube in any color you wanted, as long as it was black.

-- Did I ever tell you that I learned to water-ski without a boat? True story! Like most folks, we did not own a boat in the early days… but we did have a set of waterskis and a couple of ropes, and Dad wanted me to learn to ski. So, he had me tie the ropes together and doggie-paddle myself out as far as I could go. Meanwhile, Dad would tie the other end of the ropes to the back of his…… drum-roll, please…… bbbbpppummmm, pbbbbppppummm, bbbbpppummm…. Buick convertible!!!! If I’m lying, I’m dying! I learned to ski begin a Buick. Dad would drive the car along the store as far as he could, and I would manage to get up on skis for a few yards…. Then do it all over again.

-- I actually have a similar true story about how a learned to swim a year or so earlier, less than 10 yards from where I learned to ski. Before learned to swim, quite by accident, I was a confirmed life-jacket man. I never went anywhere without that bright orange appendage strapped around my torso… except when I was out of the water for an hour during lunch-time. The pimento cheese sandwiches and vienna sausages only took about 30 seconds to scarf down…. But the adult mandated “hour” before returning to the water seemed to take FOREVER. It was torture. We kids could hardly wait until we heard the “OK” signal to get back into water. It was a mad rush off the deep-end of the dock, back into the depths of cool, refreshing, summertime lake water!!! And it was during one such frantic, as-soon-as-possible dash back into the deep end that this six year old neglected to grab a life-jacket before plunging into the depths, and thus decided that it was time to teach myself to swim!

-- I called it a dock. It was not really a dock by today’s standards. It was a home-made ramp, with a coupled sheets of plywood on top, some planks along the sides, and four 55-gallon metal drums lashed together to keep it all afloat. It worked fined until the drums sprung a leak. But until then, you could float it along the lake, anywhere you wanted to go…. Huck Finn style… all the way to the other side of the lake, if you could figure how to get back. I was a lot like having your own boat, without the boat.

Things have changed a lot at my favorite watering-hole, Lake Murray. But it’s still a good way to spend some time during Dog Days.

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