Wednesday I took a jackrabbit furlough and drove to the town where I grew up and went to school. I visited some of the places where my friends and I rode donkeys, mules and horses, swam, played and got into good clean mischief.
The huge old and knarled cottonwood tree that stood by the swimming hole is no longer there. I sat in my car. Again, I saw that tree with the rope fastened to a limb that branched out over the swimming hole. I heard again the laughter as my friends and I swung from the rope and dropped into the water dunking each other calling names and good natured insults, and making all kinds of noise. I saw again the beautiful young girl on her horse watching as Henry and I frolicked in the water. Forever etched in my memory is the picture of a pretty girl sitting on her gray Arabian mare laughing at us. It was close to lunch time. We had decided to go home for lunch. We scrambled up the slick and muddy bank. There we stood naked as the day we were born. Only to see a girl setting her horse, laughing at us and making fun of our nakedness. So much for skinny dipping on a summer day.
My friend Henry and I were almost 7 the first time we rode ol’ Red, my mule, and stopped at the swimming hole and went skinny dipping. We tied Red to a crooked cedar fence post and piled our clothes in a neat pile, then jumped in the water. Henry looked up and hollered, “Your stupid dog has run off with some of our clothes!” Sure enough, down the road the dog went with Henry’s pants clamped in his mouth and flopping in the wind.
The years went by, and we tied other mules and donkeys to that same post. The post is gone. Pleasant memories are filed away in my bank of memories. The old tree is gone, some of my friends are gone.
I am now writing another book. Like my currant book, Along the Back Roads of Yesterday, it is filled with stories of dogs, mules, donkeys, and boys growing up in rural America during the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Memories are as fresh in my mind as the day we lived them. I’m having fun writing them and should be finished with the book by next spring.