A Summer Swim

A Recollection from One Summer Vacation

By: Anthony AJ Jackson

    I do not recall the exact year of this particular summer vacation my family spent in rural middle Tennessee, but it was in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. I was in my early teens then, as was my cousin, Travis, and my brother, Bobby Lee, five years my junior, when my mother took us on vacation that year. A guy she had dated years earlier in her youth and had subsequently married years later, Terry, was also present for portions of the story to be recounted. Terry had a spoiled son, Tory, who was close to Bobby Lee’s age. Terry, being a lumberjack and country boy in general, was a stout, burly man with a kind temperment.

    While we were up visiting, Terry still had to work, and so the task of keeping Bobby Lee, Travis, Tory, and me entertained fell to mom. One day she told us that Terry was letting her use his car to take us swimming at a nearby creek. We were all excited about it, and we were to picnic as well. We had paper plates, plastic cups, an ice chest with food and sodas, and we were looking forward to the prospects of swimming and playing under the summer sun.

    We made a left turn off the rural road we had been traveling, which led to a gravel road. The gravel road met the creek about a quarter of a mile straight ahead. As we pulled up to the water’s edge, we saw through the crystal clear creek water that the road continued through the creek and on down the other side. On the other side we could see a pavillian that would have been perfect for picnicing. We sat there for a minute or two, mom then asked, “Do you think we can make it?” The water didn’t look more than about three or four inches deep at that particular point.

    We all chimed in, “Sure. It isn’t that deep. As long as you don’t stop, we should be fine.” To this day I know not what possessed her to listen to us, but she did. As soon as we had travelled about four or five feet, we began to realize we had erred in judgment.

    Water began to trickle in through the bottom of the doors. The tail pipe submerged, coughing bubbles as the car slowed. We still moved, though not so much forward as slightly downstream. We were close to panicing as this point. Bobby, Tory and Travis in the back began using the red plastic cups to dump the water out of the floorboard. Mom laid on the gas to try to get our momentum back to no avail. The tires spun against the gravel for a few seconds before they went flat. The engine quit mumbling underwater and ceased. Travis and I were sent by my mom back to the gravel road’s intersection with the main road to flag down help. Bobby and Tory stayed with her trying to keep the water out of the car.

    When we finally did flag someone down, it was a coworker of Terry’s. He drove up to the saw mill and got Terry to bring a vehicle to tow us out. Needless to say, he was none too happy when he arrived. I remember he remarked to his friend, “Yeah my wife doesn’t seem to understand that this isn’t a GD submarine!” There was to be no swimming that day, no picnic, and certainly not loving family banter at dinner.

    I do not remember the long list of injuries inflicted upon that car, but the list, I assure you, was quite long. Never again did we attempt to cross swollen creek beds. No we were never again fooled by the deceiving appearance of the clear waters. So that is the whole of that story as I recall it, totally true and a bit embarrassing. Everyone involved has learned to look back on it and laugh, and that is exactly what I do every time I find myself thinking about that day.