Summer of 1960 When I Was 7....chapter 12 What….? Swimming with What?
When Daddy was home, we’d go to a park and have a picnic or just go for a drive. We would drive by fields full of little cotton bushes with prickly flowerets with a hard shell with small bits of cotton peeking out. Sometimes those fields would be busy with field hands picking cotton. We’d also pass tobacco fields with their rows and rows of golden leaves
Most of the time we would get to go swimming at Lake Lewis. Momma would fix a picnic and Moonrose and I would grab a snack for us and a snack for old Sam and pile in the car. We’d sail down the highway in our ’56 blue-on-blue Ford our bare legs sticking to the plastic covered seats. With the windows down our hair would fly all around. Daddy would hold his swim trunks out the window and let them flap in the wind. On the drive to the lake, I watched out the window at the car’s shadow changing shapes as it moved with us.
When we got to Lake Lewis, we always went to see Sam first. He lived on the empty side of the dam in a little creek. I looked past the thick weeds down into the deep ditch.
“Is he here today?”
“Oh, I see him. There he is.” I saw two big eyes come up out of the dark, muddy water. I grabbed a cold chicken neck out of the bowl that Daddy was holding. I pinched the fat, loose skin, reared back my arm and threw it down the hill. A huge mouth filled with teeth came up out of the water and caught the piece of chicken and swallowed it in one motion. Sam, the alligator, started to come onto the bank. We all inched backwards a little in reflex. Patty wanted to throw one, too, but Daddy said he’d help her. Their throw was back out into the water and Sam lunged back into the darkness.
There was an old abandoned mill built on the dam and the big lake was on the other side. We could walk on the old wooden dock, but my parents wouldn’t let us swim there. We had to swim off the shore at the other side of the lake. They could see us swim better, they said. Momma spread out an old blanket under an old oak with low hanging moss where she could watch and Patty could play in the shallow water.
“Daddy, Daddy, pick me up!” He took turns picking us up over his head and throwing us out so far we couldn’t reach bottom. The dark, cool water closing over my head, I’d kick hard and somehow find the surface gulping the air and laughing. Across the lake tall cypress trees grew out in the water. That’s where the alligators were Daddy explained. We had nothing to worry about on this side of the lake. So we swam, happy and carefree.to be continued.....