Swimming was something that I didn't know how to do. One day my pal, Danny Stafford, and I decided to go swimming, and he promised to teach me.
The only water around that area that wasn't stagnate was in White Walnut Creek, just to the North of Rector.
Of course we had took our trusty BB guns for protection against all the animals that might just want us for lunch. And, there were always snakes. We found the perfect place with water that was about 8 ft deep, clear as glass, and wasn't much more than just a little pool on the side of the creek.
It was amazing to me as we walked up into the creek. We went into the creek right below the railroad tracks where it was wide and accessible. There was a place where the bank had been taken down to allow vehicle access.
It was a world in which I'd never been. The banks had been eaten out in places where the water had rushed against them, leaving dark chasms with roots and vegetation hanging from them. It was a world alien to me, and I was filled with wonder at the sight of it.
Plus, I'm a skeered of snakes, and spiders, and bugs, and varmints of all kinds. A lot of 'em wouldn't hurt ya, but they'd make you hurt yourself!
The stream meandered back and forth, down and around on its way out of the string of hills referred to as Crowley's Ridge. The sand was a bleached white, and over the years I've never seen sand that color again.
With a full magazine of BB's, we would shoot at everything that moved, and many things that didn't move as well. Finally running out of ammo, we cached our guns, shoes and other important items like our trusty pea-shooter, and jar of water.
We had no fishing paraphernalia, but we did have sticks with which to aggravate the fish. Had we caught one, neither of us knew how to clean it, much less cook it.
We soon came to a hole close up to the bank, the bottom of which fell down very sharply. As I remember, it was bout 6 or 8 feet deep next to the bank, which is not deep at all, unless you're a 3' something short stuff like I was then!
The creek was more like a place for rain water to drain out of the hills, nevertheless, it always had a small stream running through it with holes here and there that was amazingly deep sometimes. You could see huge fish down near the bottom.
"Last one in is a rotten egg!" yelled my pal.
I stripped off to my birthday suit and plunged in, not realizing that the bottom fell off sharply and the only way you could get out was swim out. I immediately went under, and panicked, taking in great quantities of water.
I came up to the surface and gagged, strangled, took in more water, and went under again. Everything was getting black, my head hurt, my lungs hurt, and I was trying to scream under water.
I was struggling with everything that I had in me, but could not get a toe hold or anything to hang on to.
Suddenly, I felt something grab me by the hair of the head, and I was yanked up to where I could get my foot on the ground. I scrambled onto the bank and lay there in the sun, gagging and throwing up water, coughing and strangling. The sun was hot on my bare butt sticking up, but I didn't care.
As I lay there trying to get my breath, I realized how close I came to drowning. Finally I was able to settle down and try to rationalize what I had been through. It seemed impossible that just a couple of minutes ago, I was drowning, going down for the last time when I was hauled to safety.
That was the last time I ever went up into the little creek. Years later, as I was visiting with my own children, I told them the story of how I almost drowned in White Walnut Creek.
Since then, I've related the story numerous times and I never fail to be amazed at how Danny Stafford saved my life. There's no telling how many times I've crossed White Walnut Creek, and every time, I always think about that time and incident.