Rain, rain, go away and come again in a more timely fashion. Although we did get some much needed moisture, I don’t think it was quite what folks had in mind when wishing for rain. There was way too much wind and too much rain in too short a period of time. Whatever happened to those days when there would be a gentle all-day rain that soaked into the ground slowly and gave everything a nice even soaking? I believe this is what is referred to as “feast or famine” and nothing in moderation.
Looking back to my youth I can remember a few times when we would have a real downpour that would dump a few inches at a time. To a kid, a rainstorm was a time to run about outside trying to get a few raindrops to land on the tip of your tongue or sliding barefooted on the wet grass getting mud and blades of grass between your toes. These were just some things that kids (at least this one) liked to do in the rain. Some of the neighbors, like my Aunt Ruby, would yell at us if they caught us playing in their wet yards.
Once the rain had stopped and the ditches were full, it was time to build a makeshift raft or boat and launch it in the ditch. The rafts or boats weren’t life sized by any stretch of the imagination, but more like models. Once the ships were launched it was off to the races! I would run alongside the road following the boat and coaxing it as it wound its way through the culverts and down the ditch towards “the crick” and out into the slough. Now navigating through tall weeds and grass sticking out of the water was always a challenge. There were a few instances when the water was too high and your vessel would get hung up on a branch or clump of grass and would be just out of reach, so you would have to wait it out until the water subsided. Once the water crested and started going down you may be able to reach the boat, but it was a bittersweet feeling. There would only be a small window of opportunity when the water would be running at maximum depth and the current would be at its strongest. This is when you wanted the boat to make the full trip and reach the “crick” where it would be carried off into the slough on an adventure known only to the imagination of a young boy.
I’d have to say that in hind sight this was probably dangerous for kids because the current was strong and fast. On more than one occasion I would roll up my pant legs and ford the running water to the other side of the ditch. This wasn’t always an easy task and falling down could result in wet pants and an occasional “red” bottom upon returning home with wet pants. The last words my mother would usually say before I went outside after a hard rain was, “stay out of the ditch.” This was usually taken as a challenge and rolling up your pant legs to above the knee seemed to borderline on genius except when the water was as high as the cuff you had just created.
This was innocent, simple fun that we kids created and that would occupy us for most of a day. I guess I never really thought about being bored because even when there wasn’t anyone around to play with I would use my imagination to entertain myself. Sometimes I would throw a football through the tire swing in the back yard or just see how high I could throw it and play catch with myself. I would never have thought of going to Mom or Dad and telling them I was bored. They had all they could do to put clothes on our backs and food on the table, so being bored never was part of their world.
My mother was the one that introduced me to fishing at a young age. She talked about how she would spend a lot of time at “Coney Island” which is what they called the place where Bancroft Bay Park is today. She and her cousins would swim and she said she would also go fishing there. I actually learned a lot about fishing in that place she called “Coney Island.” Using the proverbial “hook, line and sinker” technique, I’d fashion a throw line and on occasion I’d add a cork which my mother had rescued from an old broken thermos. We always called them corks back then and I don’t know when the name switched to bobbers. I still have an old bobber that is shaped like a Pure Oil can. I believe that I also have one that looks like a can of Grain Belt beer – my, how we have evolved. I can still see those big old yellow bellied bullheads and huge bluegills that we caught. That was simple fishing, and maybe even a little primitive by today’s standards, but it sure was fun.
We must always be careful when we are around high water and fast currents because streams can be deeper and more dangerous than they seem. We should be especially mindful to keeping little children away from fast running streams and rivers.
Until next time; enjoy the great outdoors and take some time to introduce a kid to fishing. Always play safe and if you’re in a boat or by a stream be sure to wear your life jacket.
Please take a little time to remember those who served and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.