Appalachian Thursday – The Swimmin’ Hole
It’s getting HOT in Western NC. Oh, not like out west with temperatures over 100, but we have been in the 90s and we are NOT used to that. Of course, we have the perfect antidote to hot, summer days in the mountains of Appalachia.
The swimmin’ hole.
At home in WV, Laurel Fork runs like melted ice over coal ledges, rocks, and boulders to pool in a shady spot behind my Sunday School teacher’s house. Everyone in the community went there to swim–unless they went to Alton, but that was further away and you might run into someone you didn’t know.
The swimmin’ hole had a large boulder on the far side perfect for jumping off (so long as you knew where the submerged rocks were) and one on the near side perfect for sitting in the sun. The flat, coal ledge that spilled water into the pool was a good place to sit in just a couple of inches of water and watch what went on below. A sort of kiddie pool.
We would go there after working in the hay fields. Nothing was better to get the sweat and itchy chaff out of all your nooks and crannies. Mom brought Ivory soap (it floats) and Prell shampoo to kill two birds with one stone. It was heaven.
And it’s legendary. One story tells of how a kid jumped in and peeled a chunk of his scalp back on a submerged rock. The water was so cold, it slowed the bleeding and Aunt Bess just patted the skin in place and sewed it back on. Then there was my dad’s cousin who at sixteen jumped in the cold water when she was overheated and died. I’ve seen her marker in the Laurel Fork Cemetery. And I, along with many others, was baptized there.
It’s a magic place, the swimmin’ hole. Last time I was there, it was oddly smaller than I remembered. But I think in this instance I’ll trust my memory more than my eyes.
Because there are times when your heart knows better than your head.