As a preschooler, my world was about six miles long and a mile wide. We lived
about three miles from Columbia’s Happy Hollow and three from Olivet Christian
Church at a country crossroads called Harg. My world extended south to the
D.D. Moss farm where we picked blackberries in summer and gathered walnuts and
hickory nuts in autumn. That was on the south fork of Grindstone Creek. My
boundary to the north was about a mile from where we picked blackberries and
nuts, on the Bill Sublett farm.
We swam several times a week at a deep hole at Sublett’s place on the north
fork of Grindstone. That was my boundary to the north and was the site of my
first encounter with swimming and with what seemed like personal tragedy at my
Families met to cool off following hot summer days in the hayfield or over the
hot wood stove at canning time. We all swam in the clothes we had on and often
went home wet. The water was just barely over Dad’s head in its deepest spot
and there was a nice sand beach near an outcropping of limestone rocks. Those
rocks gave the spot its name, “Flat Rock.”
Mom was a city girl from Centralia before her marriage. She wore eye glasses
and, in those days, it took almost a week to replace a broken lens. Hence, she
had skills in embroidery and music -- but not in sports. In fact, she was
“deathly afraid of water.” I heard her say that many times, without
questioning what she meant. Mom encouraged the rest of us to swim, but she
never left her spot in shallow water. She taught me how to “mud crawl” with
hands on the creek bottom and she encouraged me saying, “Soon you’ll swim
well enough to save yourself.”
One summer evening Uncle Lawrence and ~Aunt Ethel Henry went with us to the
creek to cool off. Uncle Lawrence, Mom’s younger brother, was a kidder and
he’d come by and talk to Mom, saying, “It’s easy. I can teach you to swim.”
But no! She didn’t budge. I was nearby when he approached her with his face in
the water. Suddenly he looked up and grabbed Mom’s feet as if to pull her in.
Mom’s eyes rolled back in their sockets and she went limp. “Scared to death”
I thought! Lawrence and Dad and all of us helped pull her up on the beach.
“Mom! Speak to me,” we said as we massaged her arms and legs and lifted her
heavy head with eyes closed. A few minutes seemed to be an eternity before she
regained consciousness. I never forgot her horrible, expressionless face.
Of course, she was OK and Uncle Lawrence was sorry. He said, over and over,
“Sis, I was just kidding, didn’t mean any harm, forgive me.” She promised
forgiveness but she certainly didn’t forget.
Why did I tell this story today? Because I have patience and understanding of
persons who have real fear similar to Mom’s. We never knew how hers started
and I suspect that no two people’s fears are alike. However, I’ve helped
several people overcome fear of the water enough to enjoy related sports, at
Mom died before I became a swimming teacher and I never had the opportunity to
help her overcome that fear. If you have real fear, let’s discuss it. My
number is in the Columbia telephone directory and there’s no obligation.