On “staycation” this week with our friends, Denny and Joanie. To celebrate our shared anniversaries and Denny’s birthday in late June, the four of us usually head off on lengthy sojourns by car or plane to some distant destination. This year, though..in part because Linda’s mom isn’t doing so hot but mostly as our way of giving the finger to big oil companies, we decided to stay closer to home. That brings us to Lake Madison where we chose to again accept the long standing generous offer by Denny and Joanie’s daughter and son-in-law to take up residence at their cabin for a few days. Karen and Paul Rensch are rarely here during the week so we have a run of the place which includes long chats sitting out on the deck or the dock during soft warm summer evenings with a fishing line always in the water just in case something swims by and grabs the bait; a bullhead and a small Walleye have been the only takers so far. There was a time when the girls would slip into bathing suits and paddle around in the water but these days they’re more inclined..and just as content…to dangle their toes in the tepid green water. I think Denny would like to go swimming but can’t find anybody to take the plunge with him; certainly not me. I haven’t removed my shirt in public for decades and don’t ever intend to either thank you very much.
I suppose if somebody was drowning I’d dive in to save them..afterall, I am an official Red Cross Advanced Lifesaver and have a patch like this tucked away somewhere to prove it.
I recently came across a photograph from when I was a kid of me and a bunch of other youngsters at the curb in front of the Volga Auditorium waiting for the school bus to pick us all up for the short ride to the Brookings Pool for our weekly Red Cross sponsored swim safety course.
That’s me in the flowery shirt whistling and charging toward the bus which had just rounded the corner. Funny, I can still name just about every kid in the photo which was taken by a professional photographer and printed in the Volga Tribune. I used to love those lessons; in part because swimming came easy to me and also I was at the age of self awakening and bewilderment; unable to quite figure out why I so looked forward to seeing those bronze skinned South Dakota State College women lifeguards who served as our swim instructors. Those lessons were pretty early in the morning and the water was usually chilly. It didn’t take long for me to get used to it but I can still see some of the purple-lipped skinnier kids standing along the edge, wrapped in a towel shaking uncontrollably refusing to be coaxed back into the water. (They never got a patch.) A few of us breezed through the preliminaries; like ducking your head underwater and using a board to help keep you afloat as you kicked and paddled your way forward. In no time a few of us were doing the crawl stroke back and forth across the pool without assistance which qualified us to swim in the deep end where the diving boards were. I loved the swimming pool and would either ride my bike or hitchhike to Brookings whenever I could muster up enough lawn mowing money to cover the cost of admission.
It’s been over fifty five years but I can still smell the powerful aroma of chlorine that hit my nose upon entering the brick building which led to the water. After paying the quarter, customers were issued a wire locker basket to put street clothes in. Each numbered basket had a big metal diaper pin with the corresponding number that you’d affix to your suit.
The bottom of the pool used to be littered with them leading to chaos when a kid who’d lost his tried to reclaim his pants and shoes. I believe it was rule number three that said everybody had to take a shower before entering the pool. I never could figure out the apparent redundancy until some kids showed up looking as if it was the first shower they’d had in months. Even then I remember being grateful that their grime and sweat was going down the shower drain and not floating amongst the general population like a big oil slick. We were expected to take a turn under the spout after swimming too. I suppose it was to wash the chemicals off but, in my case, I learned to appreciate the benefit of a cold shower after beholding those lovely college girls perched atop their lifeguard stands all day.
I sure do miss those days at the Brookings Pool when..even though I was a chubby kid.. modesty didn’t prevent me from those wonderful watery experiences.
Heck, maybe, just for old times sake, I’ll sneak out of the cabin late tonight and go skinny dipping in the lake. I’ll probably need a shower afterwards to wash off the algae but at my age, there’s no reason the water needs to be cold.