Yes, it is hot outside today but, even in the heat, the summer outdoors calls to me. I guess part of the allure is the fact that like many folks, I spend way too much time in the office and if I am outdoors during the week, it is to travel for business meetings and other non recreational matters.
I have made time to go fishing a couple of times so far this summer and have plans for a few more trips before it is over. Weird thing is, time can’t possibly be measured the same way it was when I was a child! Summer was three years long it seemed and days on the river were 30 hours long. Fishing with cane poles, old Shakespeare fly rods tipped with #10 white popping bugs, or “Zebco 202″ cat-fishing reels. Days were spent fishing, swimming and water skiing or riding an “inner-tube” pulled behind a fishing boat. Cups filled with “Kool-aid” from a glass jug, or sweet tea were the drinks available and lunches were mostly leftovers from supper or breakfast, baloney and cheese crackers or Jiff peanut butter sandwiches. Man! what a menu!
We drank water from cool, clear springs that trickled out of the slate rock or limestone walls along the Tombigbee river as we fished in flat bottom, home made Cypress wood “skiffs”. We sat along the bank at dusk and caught old “grunting” blues and channel catfish until we were ready for supper and some fun time around the camp fire. We sat and listened to the “grown-ups” pick guitars, saw on a fiddle or caress a tune from a little mandolin that hummed like the mosquitoes we tried to keep at bay with bug spray and running through the smoke from the camp fire.
We dined on fried fish most nights, or bar-b-cue deer hams, hot dogs, burgers, or fried chicken.The two week period around the Fourth of July holiday was “camp time” as we called it. My family and four or five other families that were mom and dad’s friends, all got together and went camping along the Tombigbee River near Boligee Alabama, In Greene County.
The river was at that time, free from any commercial traffic or dams until far downstream at Demopolis. It was, at that time, pristine, natural, and as beautiful as any place I have been in my life, even to this day. We camped out on an elevated sandy bank where a cold, tannin colored, creek flowed into the river and the cold water from the creek was as refreshing as any place you would want to be on a hot summer day. We had a rope swing and a couple of dive platforms nailed on trees that leaned out over the waters at the mouth of the creek. It was better than any “city” pool I had ever visited with my “uptown”cousins!
The tents were all make-shift varieties from horse trailers to old Army surplus units. My dad used a large canvas and old rusty tin pieces to fashion a “lean-to” style tent and us kids slept on the ground on pallets of old cotton ticked quilts laid over hay spread down for a mattress. We laid in our pallets protected from the “skeeters” by thick cotton quilts and canvas doors to the tent. At night, we listended to the various owls, crickets, cikadas and a billion other bugs in a chorus as primal as the wonderful piece of earth we laid on. I have slept in five star hotels since then and none compared to the sleep I got on those trips!
Mornings, we awoke to a “luxury” of smells, from camp fire coffee brewing, to slab bacon cooking in big black iron skillets, eggs, sausage, grits, home fries, and even biscuits cooked in several dutch ovens! Home-made jellies and preserves, home-made butter and cold “home-squeezed” milk rounded out the breakfast that made us kids think we were the luckiest on the planet! And, I believe we were!
After breakfast, we could choose to go back to bed, to go with “the men” to run the trot lines, fish from the bank, or after the obligatory “hour after a meal rest time”, we could go jump in the river! I loved to go with my dad to run the trot lines and that was my choice most of the time in my younger years at the camp. In later years, dad would let my older brother run the lines and I would go help him, but he tended to be too bossy so if dad did not make me go, I opted to swim early, swim often and swim all day!
We called the camp, “Gypsy Hollow”, a moniker one of the adults penned on it due to the make up of odd camping fixtures and the camp fire with the music each night. It was a summer memory that is among my most precious of summer days outdoors in a much simpler, much richer, time and place in my life. As an adult, I sometimes think I have been a poor parent in respect to providing memories of such quality to my boys. We did beach trips, mountain trips, amusement parks, a trip to Yellowstone and other such venues that we could afford in our “modern life and times” but, doggone it! they never did get to experience a two week stay in a paradise called “Gypsy Hollow”.
Make some summertime memories OUTDOORS with your kids, before they are grown and gone.
Until next week,