I grew up on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Well, actually it was called the Greenville Creek (GC) but to a young boy, it was as big as the Mississippi river.
Huck Finn had nothing on me. Much of my misspent grade-school years were spent playing on/in this muscular, sublime, yet dangerous body of water known as the Greenville Creek. This symbol of freedom, this twisted and at times perilous Leviathan, captured my imagination and lead me down a path of conquest and adventure.
I first dropped a cane pole into her murky waters at age 10. I used either dough bait or nightcrawlers. But I didn’t catch much other than more crawfish. Those damn crawdads were everywhere. Fishing it turns out was much better in the ponds scattered throughout the park, so I moved my tackle box and fishing gear there.
But by age 12 I had acquired a Crossman BB-gun. So, I would walk along the less populated portions of the GC, armed to the gills with explosives (M-80s) my trusty rifle (BB-gun) and a frog gig. I patrolled the banks of the GC looking for pirates, scallywags, and other rapscallion looking bi-peds. I often did battle with gypsies and river trolls. And I never once asked for compensation from city hall for all my efforts. I helped keep Greenville safe, free of cost.
By the time I entered Jr. High I had grown up considerably. I no longer cruised the Creek looking for bad guys. I had pretty much run them all off by then. It was at this juncture that I decided to build my navy. I received my early navy training by borrowing rowboats, tied to various docks along the creek. I would just waltz up to a boat, take her out for a spin and return her when I was done. After learning how to navigate the river (I mean creek) I started investing in ‘boats’ of my own.
At the height of my navy’s strength, I owned three vessels of varying sizes. Basically, I had a small ship, a medium ship, and a large ship, or battleship, if you will? My ships had other names like inner-tubes and boards, but they all came heavily armed, equipped with slingshots and two feet long pee-shooters – oh yeah, and a pouch full of hand-grenades (water-balloons) too.
During winter, I dry-docked my ships and put on my PT boats (ice skates). Back in my day, the winters were more wintery. The GC would freeze over, and I could skate her loins for miles. At times the ice was smooth as glass, and the trees were tipped in whiteout. It was total freedom to be skating and gliding along the Creek with no particular goal in mind – other than just being one with the Creek. And I would sometimes disappear into the background and observe the birds who inhabited the trees along the Mighty Mississippi.
I mentioned earlier that the GC has an untamed side. On at least three occasions that I can remember, after a two or three-day hard soaking rainstorm, the Creek would swell her banks to within feet of overflowing the swinging bridge. And of course, like an idiot I would walk out to the middle of the bridge and look at the water, flowing just a few feet below my toes, and think to myself ‘wow, if a fella fell into this Creek at this moment, they’d be up the (expletive goes here) Creek without a paddle. But do you think this thought stopped me from trying to dunk my feet into the water below. I remember a time when the Creek rose to under two feet below the bridge and I plunged my feet into water just to feel how robust the current was. Needless to say, my parents were not with me at the time.