Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Playing softball and skinny dipping were just two of the pleasures for boys in the summertime. The only thing better was to do them one right after the other. When we were hot and sweaty from chasing balls, scratched from looking for lost balls in the weeds, and just tired from the heat of the sun, nothing felt better than to peel off our clothes and swim in a secluded spot where the dammed water was deeper in water of  Indian Creek.

The Skinny on the Ball Field
There was a kid created and maintained ball diamond where we played our games. It was on a level plot of ground that no one used, so we claimed it. It became the place where we played softball or baseball. Each kid would bring his equipment; a bat, a glove, or a ball if they had one and we would play ball.
It always depended on what type of ball that was brought as to whether we would play baseball or softball. If no one brought a ball or if we wanted to cool off after several hot innings, we would make use of another natural resource near at hand. The stream ran alongside the ball field, nearly parallel to the first base line.
Let me describe the layout of the ball field. Route 711/ 381 was nearly parallel to the third base line, a teacher’s yard was just beyond the outfield at second base, and a weedy patch of briars grew along the base line to home plate. The stream and the highway was far enough away not to be a concern, but occasionally a ball would roll into the teacher’s yard or driveway. That wasn’t a problem either, but when a foul ball ended up in the briars and weeds, we had to search for it or quit playing ball. With only one ball available, finding it was imperative. Even when we found it, we sometimes stopped the game. We would emerge hot and sweaty with arms and legs scratched and burning from the briars, we would decide it was time for a swim.
None of us ever brought bathing suits; it was skinny dipping, not swimming, or getting our underwear wet. (We were all too hot not to swim. No one wanted to be called a sissy because he was afraid to swim naked and no one wanted to be called a baby because his underwear was wet.)
The cool water of Indian Creek would quickly stop the burning of the scratches and cool off our hot bodies. The swimming hole was a deeper spot in the stream where the water was slowed by a rock dam that we had built. We maintained it and it was chin high at its deepest part. The stream ran behind a line of trees and clumps of Laurel bushes. There we were hidden away. We were secluded from the traffic on the nearby highway and from the teacher’s windows. Nothing disturbed us as we swam other the passing of an occasional train.
The train tracks ran on a ledge about twelve feet above the water. When we heard the whistle and  rumble of an approaching train, we all headed for deep water until only our heads bobbed above the water.  We would wave at the engineer and most times, he would give a short toot of the locomotive’s whistle. I'm sure that he knew were swimming bare, but the blue green water covered us.
It was an odd feeling as the train passed. The heavy rumbling of the wheels on the steel tracks made the creek bed seem to shake beneath the water. Even before the rumbling died away, we were back on the bank diving and playing tag.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,

    It was great meeting you last night. Thanks so much for coming out to the Words in Process reading. I'm enjoying reading these stories on your blog. This one in particular might be of interest to the Post-Gazette. The "Portfolio" editor, Gary Rotstein, is running a series of columns now called "Warm Nostagia" about summertime memories. I'd suggest sending this piece to him and perhaps he will run it in the paper.