Most youngsters today learn how to swim in sparkling-clean municipal or YMCA pools, sometimes wearing those “designer” swim trunks. Swimming was a lot simpler when I was a boy. We just jumped in the old swimming hole, wearing nothing at all!
On most summer days the old swimming hole near my boyhood home in Ottumwa, Iowa, was full of splashing boys. It was tough to swim across it without bumping into somebody. All that commotion stirred up plenty of mud, but we didn’t mind—there was always lots of laughing during friendly battles with sprays of water.
None of us boys were embarrassed about not wearing any swim trunks. After all, our swimming hole was well hidden by trees and thick bushes. No one could see us. Well, almost no one.
One hot summer day, while waiting my turn to jump from the diving board the older boys had made from a plank anchored with huge stones, I happened to glance across the pond—and spotted three little girls! The trio walked along the far shore of the pond near the bushes where we had hung our clothes. Like browsing shoppers, those giggling girls began plucking our clothes off the bushes and draping them over their arms!
My heart almost stopping beating, and I yelled, “Cut that out, you…you…sissies!” (That was about the worst insult a very agitated 8-year-old boy could muster back then.)
The feminine pranksters snatched us as many more clothes as they could hold—including mine. Then, laughing out loud, they dashed up the dirt path that led to the street. Faced with the prospect of going home without a stitch to cover me, I took off after the girls. The other boys scrambled out of the water and followed.
When the girls saw that I was closing the gap, they picked up their pace, dropping clothes as they ran. I was shouting as I came closer, but it only made those girls laugh all the more. I caught up with them just a short distance from the street, well within sight of a row of houses. It was only then that I stopped to think, What do I do now?
“Give back our clothes,” I yelled. “What the dickens are you trying to do?”
“I was thinking to wear ’em myself!” the oldest girl clucked. But when she saw the other boys approaching, she dropped her bundle and ran for the street. The other two girls followed suit.
For a moment I thought of throwing rocks at them but decided against it. Instead, I began frantically searching for my clothes! It took quite a while to find my shirt and pants, and I located one sock on the path back to the pond. By then the other boys were rummaging through the tangled garments, grumbling and grousing and vowing revenge. But before long we were all laughing about the whole predicament.
I’ve enjoyed swimming ever since. But even now, I still keep a wary eye out—just to make sure there’s no one around trying to steal my clothes!
Riney Hulsebus • Arvada, Colorado