With all the swimming pools around now, there must be a lot of kids, who have never been to a creek to do their swimming. I have to admit the clear water of a swimming pool has its advantages. Wading into water where you couldn’t see the creatures scurrying around your feet was scary for a young boy or girl, but there was also a sense of pride when you were finally able do it.
Swimming in creeks was a big part of growing up for a lot of people my age and older. It was the days before the sanitized cement ponds, and the vinyl lined backyard pools came along. In fact I had already earned my water wings before the pool at Liberty Park was built. I learned to swim in the murky waters of Flat Creek, Grand Avenue Ford, and Gasoline Alley Ford, as well as the many ponds and streams around Sedalia.
When I was a kid my father, Julian Miller worked for a company that sold coal in the winter and ice in the summer. In the summer when the heat became too much to bear, my father could be talked into taking our family, and as many others as would fit on the old flatbed truck he hauled ice on, to the creek for a cool swim. As I recall it was like a hayride without the hay.
Cut off pants and old dresses were the swim suits for most of us back then, and I can still remember how heavy bib overalls feels when their wet, especially if the pockets were still there to fill up with water. I can also remember how good it felt to sit in a running ripple, and let the heat flow out of your body as cool water washes over you. Once we had cooled off it was time for me and the other boys to hunt for crawdads, and other things that hid under the rocks beneath the water. The creatures we found were, of course, used to scare the little girls, and our mothers.
The thing I remember best next to the swimming, and scaring the girls, was the food we ate while we were at the creek. The menu usually consisted of hot dogs on the end of a stick roasted over a driftwood fire, watermelons that had bobbed around us as we swam so they would cool to an edible temperature, and finally toasted marshmallows around a warm fire as the sun went down.
There were always loud protests from us kids when it was time to load ourselves back on the old truck to leave. We knew, however, with enough persistence we could persuade our parents to come back there again on another hot day.
A back yard pool, or a big city one may be fun, but they can’t compare to sitting on the bank of a creek with your friends and neighbors around you, toasting marshmallows while somewhere in the dark past the glow of a crackling fire the songs of frogs and other night creatures serenade you.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.