Me and Mike Brown and David Hayes went up on the banks of the Chattooga river back when we were young, about twelve or thirteen years old if I remember correctly. We were on the south bank, and had originally been going to do some fishing. Summers back then were lazy days, baseball games and swimming in the river, hunting golf balls up at the Trion golf course, and exploring.
All three of us were dedicated golfers and golf ball hunters. We would go up to the slough on #1 hole and find 8 or 10 golf balls, and then move on down to the creeks on #2 and #3 holes. We’d go into that squishy mud barefooted, and feel for the lost golf balls with our feet. Sometimes some of the leeches in the creek would attach themselves to our legs or in between our toes. We never thought anything about it, we’d just pull them off. Occasionally a water mocassin or some other type of water snake would hear or see us coming, tromping up the creek and would splash in the water. I remember one time when Mike and I were hunting up the middle of the creek and a HUGE snake came swimming right down the center. I went to one bank, and he hit the other one. Once it swam by us, we went right back into the muck.
We needed all of those golf balls, because at that point in our golfing career we lost about two balls per hole. We got better as the years passed and we played on J.W. Greenwood’s golf team. In 1967 we won a big trophy and in in 1968 we finished just out of the “money” at the State tournement. I won a couple of individual medals both years and thought I was pretty good. I shot even par at a youth tournament late in the Summer of ’68 and thought I was gonna win for sure. Old boy named Andy Bean shot three under par, and I ended up in second place. He went on to do pretty good as a pro, and me…well, I think I peaked out that summer.
Back to the banks of the Chattooga that day I was originally speaking of…
We three decided we would find the Trion Dam cave. We didn’t know exactly where the entrance was located so we went past it and ended up climbing the rocky hill that lies just above the dam. I was hopping over rocks like a mountain goat, as I had pretty good balance back then. I heard somebody yell and saw that ol’ David was sliding down the rocks. He had turned his leg and torn up his knee. We helped him back home, and it was a long recovery. No more ball playing or fishing or golfing for him that summer. It was a little bit of a wake up call for me. I’d been way up ahead of him on those rocks and if I had fallen down, it would have been a lot worse than a torn up knee. It mighta’ been goodbye…
I looked up on that rock bank from across the river just a few weeks back as I was taking some photos and wonder what prompted me to climb up that high. Was I crazy?
At 65 years of age I think about how lucky I have been to be able to survive this life up to this point, where some of my friends and comrades have not. Michael Brown has been gone for quite a few years. Old David is still around, and I have seen him a lot over the years. He still has a bit of a limp from tearing his knee up that year. I came out of it with just a few bites from some little leeches, and maybe a bee sting or two. One has to wonder at how fate, luck, time and place have so much to do with how we end up.