My friend Knight Errant recently posted his memories of a lake that was part of both of our childhoods. His memories are beautiful. Most of my memories are rather mundane.
My father grew up in a very small town near the lake, only the lake did not exist during his childhood. A dam was built in 1964 and the lake was born. Strangely, I have more memories of Brooken Mountain (which isn't much of a mountain) than I do of Lake Eufaula, though I am sure we spent far more time at the lake.
During my childhood, spotting the lake meant we were nearly at my grandma's house, nearly at the end of our long imprisonment in the car. Grandma's house had chickens, cows, the occasional sow and piglets and, when I was very small, a horse. I loved taking the kitchen scraps out to the sow, watching the piglets tumble over each other when she stood up to eat. I loved climbing to the very top of the hay bales in the barn, loved the sweet soft eyes of the cows, loved riding in the back of the truck to the feed store because the lady there always gave me candy.
There were also things I didn't like about visiting Grandma's house. I didn't like collecting the eggs. I don't know why, but the chickens scared me and I thought it was very unkind of us to steal their babies. (Bizarre as it may seem, I was not bothered by watching my Grandma kill chickens, a rather freaky process.) I also didn't like being sent down into the cellar to get canned goods. The cellar combined two of my greatest fears...being underground in a small space and spiders. Ugh! The third thing I didn't like about Grandma's house was the lake.
Actually, the lake was fine, as long as I did not have to be in the water. I loved playing along the shore while my Daddy fished, finding treasure...hooks and pop tabs. tackle and bottle caps. I loved picnicking and napping in the sun. I loved riding on the front of my cousin's bike, feeling like a big kid because we were allowed to go out of sight of the grownups. I learned to skip stones on that lake, caught fish, chased butterflies, watched people jump from the bluffs. There was only one problem. Lake water. You can't see to the bottom of the lake. Especially if you're a little girl who needs thick glasses to see anything. And if the little girl reads far too many stories about sea monsters and Nessie and evil merpeople, has a wicked older cousin who tells her gators live in the lake and has a vivid imagination? Complete terror. And doesn't a wooden dock, with it's
shadowy water and slimy posts seem like the perfect place for a lake monster to make his home? Of course!
My most vivid memory of the lake? I was about eight years old. We had gone swimming off the dock, jumping as far off the end as possible to avoid the lake monster's lair. I don't know how long we were in the water, but when it was time to get out, I wanted to stay in the lake. Why? Climbing up the dock was far more frightening than staying in the open water where I could possibly escape. I finally worked up the courage to climb up, but my heart was racing, waiting for the slimy grip on my ankle that would pull me to a watery grave. Something brushed against my thigh and I jumped up onto the deck and started running. I can picture myself, wet braids flying, running for my daddy who was shouting "Don't run!" Of course, my feet slid out from under me and I fell backwards into the lake, scraping my back and leg on the dock as I fell. I truly don't recall how I got out of the lake the second time. I think my uncle may have handed me up to my Daddy. No surprise, this incident did nothing to dispel my fear of lake water. In fact, I do not remember ever swimming in that lake again. My sister would swim while I would stand at the edge of the lake, splashing water on myself to cool off and then retreating to the safety of dry ground.
I do wonder now if Knight Errant and I ever saw each other. I was the skinny little girl in a bikini and braids, riding a bike instead of swimming.