Summer Afternoons at the Swimming Hole

Our swimming hole was muddy when we finished with it
Our swimming holes were muddy when we finished

Summer afternoons at the swimming hole are a place in my mind I can wander to, especially when it’s cold and windy outside.

The heat and humidity of a western Kentucky summer afternoon can drive kids to find the nearest, and coolest swimming hole. Growing up on Panther Creek, which could run dry during a hot summer, meant finding one of the larger pools nearer the spring. Springs kept our swimming hole filled–but the water was icy cold. I guess you can’t have it all.

We Kingstons would leave home and pick up various cousins and neighbors on the way. We didn’t have swimwear or towels, but no one wanted them anyway. A pack of us would snake through the tall weeds single file like Indians, as we crossed the fields toward the long line of sycamores marking the creek bed.

When we got to the swimming hole the water would be calm and perfectly clear. You could see schools of gray minnows darting all about, and the big spidery water bugs skating across the surface. We would take a minute to toss rocks in the water under the sycamore roots, to chase away any water moccasins lurking there. More than once we saw them crawl up among the tree roots and hide.

Shucking shoes and shirts we dared each other to see who would take the icy plunge first. Some climbed the bank and cannon-balled into the deepest part of the hole, while others tip-toed in to ease the shock. There were always three or four grape vines large enough on which to swing across the water. It became a game to see how many of us could get on the vines before they gave way.

The water was refreshingly cool, but the hole wasn’t really big enough for swimming. I suppose kids who lived near larger holes, or lakes, or rock quarries, had better swimming. We didn’t think about that, just enjoyed what we had, small as it was.

After skipping stones, ducking one another, and swinging from the rough vines until our hands were raw, there was little else to do. Eventually we put our shoes and shirts on and abandoned the now-muddy water to the snakes and terrified minnows.

We would return on the next hot day, which was sure to be soon.


© Wade Kingston