It was a fine hot day today. One of the kind of days we would have snuck up to the old boat dock and went swimming in the Chattooga river. That water was nice and cold, even in July because it had spring water running in it not too far back up stream. A lot of us boys spent time there. From the time I could swim at ten years old, until I left to go to college I went there once or twice a year.
We practiced baseball twice a week and had two games a week to play. I hated Saturday practices after I started playing golf. By the time morning practice was over…You were hot and sweaty, thirsty and tired. We still hiked up to the Trion Golf course and played nine holes though. Our Daddy’s were members through the mill and we got to play for free. We’d come back home…most of the time one of our Dad’s would come and get us…as it was usually after four when we finished.
On the weekends, we went to Chamlees Skating rink. We hung around, listened to the music and tried to get the girls. Sometimes we did something right and ended up skating holding hands with one of the girls. I so remember the songs on the “box” “Runaway”, “Tellstar” ,”Teen Angel”, “Leader of the Pack”, “It’s my Party”‘ and on and on. Songs which, if I hear them now transport me directly back there in time and space. It was a wonderful place…a refuge for kids in a small town with nothing else to do.
I would go fishing in the mornings at the river and sometimes stayed all day. We dug our worms from under the wagon bridge, big old juicy green colored worms. We fished for catfish and carp….My Uncle called them “bugle mouth bass” We took our catch up to the black folks in town and sold them. I know several of them told us they loved the carp. They loved us boys, and we loved them. There was no animosity or fear and hatred…just kids selling their catch to somebody who wanted them.
All the yards in our little town were cut neatly, with neatly trimmed bushes and flowers, and well cared for vegetable gardens in the back yards. The men would be out in their yards in their sleeveless t-shirts cutting that grass every day. They used to run a contest called “The yard of the month” for the neatest, most well kept yard. It was an honor to win…not a joke. My Dad won it one time in the years they ran it. He was happy as a pig in slop, and hung that little metal sign right out in the front yard. “YARD OF THE MONTH” emblazoned in blue letters on a white enamel background.
Summer seemed to go on and on….catching fireflies, chasing low flying bats with sticks trying to knock them down. Neighbors actually sitting on each other’s porch and talking…getting to know each other…their troubles, their joys, their hope for the future.
Fall would eventually roll around, and I was excited about going back to school, seeing friends I’d missed all Summer. We’d take a special trip yo Rome so I could pick out new school supplies. One big multi subject notebook, pencils, one or two good pens, some three ring notebook paper. The tension was palpable the night before the first day of class. Who would be the teacher for my classes, who would be in the classes…especially which girls. How would life be for that school year? Truth is…I loved trekking up and down those old wooden halls. I loved the camaraderie of my close friendships. The hard day’s, the easy days…I loved them all.
I think about my friends and classmates who have passed on. I miss them, even though I seldom saw some of them. We all shared something very special during all our seasons here in Trion. Most of us started out together in first grade, and went all the way through graduation. You don’t see that much. We were brothers and sisters, best friends, worst enemies, boyfriends and girlfriends…And most of all kindred spirits of what it was like to grow up in a little cotton mill town in Southern America, USA.