(We called it "crick," not "creek.")
Mine was a nondescript little stream with tin cans, broken bottles and lots of unmentionable junk in it, guaranteed to gash the feet of anyone who dared to wade barefoot there.
But it was a playground for those kids whose imagination knew no bounds!
In the summertime, for instance, it became the Congo, the Mississippi or the Little Big Horn, depending, of course, on whether we played Tarzan, Huckleberry Finn or cowboys and Indians. (Nobody wanted to be General Custer then.)
We hunted for snapping turtles which we took to a wizened old ex-slave as a peace-offering so she wouldn't practice voodoo against us-at least that's what we thought.
In the winter-when ice covered the rocks and refuse-we battled it out in a game called shinny, a form of hockey-but you could never confuse the two.
It was unorganized mayhem in our narrow rink when screaming kids-mostly in bib overalls-hacked away with their homemade cudgels, not caring if they hit each other because blood-letting was part of the sport.
The puck was a Carnation condensed milk can, which after a few whacks, became a lethal weapon capable of knocking out teeth or otherwise inflicting bodily harm on one another.
We chose sides, and the object of the game was to drive the Carnation milk can over the opponents' goal. But, as I recall, nobody kept score, and the fun was in the flailing.
We also tried (unsuccessfully) to trap weasels, muskrats and mink which we knew shared the unbabbling brook with us. What we would have done with one had we caught it is anybody's guess!
I think mothers suffered the most. They were unhappy when we came home with our overall legs wet – not to mention bleeding. We could have stayed in the house and played parcheesi or checkers, as far as it was their concern.
We could become rich, too, by sloshing around in the crick we told them. By turning over a few rocks, we could catch a lot of crawdads (we called them crabs then), and we could sell them to fishermen for bait.
I replayed the scene over and over again as I told Phyllis about my youthful shenanigans. The youngsters of today don't know what it's like to get all wet from seining with a gunny sack or bleeding from a misfired Carnation condensed milk can.
Needless to say, it's a shame when all they've got to look forward to is iPod music when they could be bleeding from a wild game of shinny.
I think I was right when I wrote that every child should have a crick in his or her life. We wouldn't need so many head-shrinkers if we had more kids looking for more blood-suckers between their toes instead of watching so much television.
There wasn't much obesity in bib overalls either when shinny was played on the frozen crick!
© 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz