The Swimming Hole (Wash-Hole)
By Bill Shepard
“Home was a swimmin’ hole, a fishin’ pole, and the feel of a muddy road between my toes.”
The lines above are borrowed from one of my favorite songs. I wish I had written them first. They speak my sentiments well.
Say the word, swimming hole, in the presence of any group of old folk who grew up on the old mill village in Darlington, and minds go scurrying off to a spot on Swift Creek. One could find a piece of Octagon soap lying on a log or stump most any time. It would be where a previous bather had left it after taking a cool water of the creek.
It is doubtful that any person living today could find the place, but at one time it was a popular spot.; the best recreation place that could be found, especially in the summertime. One person recently wondered if I had a picture of the wash hole, and I do have but it is locked away in my mind. I remember the place well, and in my childhood frequented the place every chance I had. My memories of the place go back more than four score years.
I was the youngest of the three Shepard boys; we were like three peas in a pod. Where you saw one, the other two were there also. Mama would never allow it to be any other way. If one went to the wash-hole for a swim, the other two went along. That was true when we were six, nine, and twelve. Our sister was born when I was six years old, and she was a welcomed addition to our family, at least most of the time. I say most of the time, but there were times when we wanted to go to the wash-hole, and Mama would say, “Rock your sister to sleep and then you can go.” My older brother would rock and sing lullabies, but Jenny’s eyes would just get bigger. It was those times we would have sent her back if we could have. Mama would finally finish her work and come to our rescue. We would be off to our favorite spot in the summer time. There was seldom a time one could go to the wash-hole and find no one there. A huge cypress tree stood at the very edge of the water, it was the place we would hang our overalls before plunging into the water. There were dozens of nails driven into the tree for that purpose. When there were enough boys present, a game called “Alligator” would be in process. One boy would be the alligator until he could tag another one. The one tagged would then become the alligator.
At a place where the water was deepest a log lay across the stream. It had been there longer than anyone could tell. Most likely in decades past a storm had blown the tree down. That log was designated as the “safe” place from the alligator when playing the game. Just a simple game, but hours could be spent while playing.
For as long as I visited the spot, girls were not allowed. My sister has informed me that after my time, girls began visiting the place and she was among the number. It is doubtful that anyone has been there in a long time, decades!
Memories of the place live on in the minds of those who enjoyed swimming in the waters, and playing the game Alligator. If anyone reading this article has memories of the wash-hole, why not share them with the rest of us? We would like to hear from you!
The Fishing Hole
By a slow moving creek in my home town,
Boys would come from the village around.
With a crooked cane pole and black flax line,
We would crowd the bank in the summer time.
School was out the last day of May.
In between chores there was time to play.
With a can of worms and a fishing pole,
We would head down to the old fishing hole.
When I was a boy, hours were spent,
Finding much pleasure and it didn’t cost a cent.
And I don‘t regret, now that I’m old,
The time that I spent at the old fishing hole.
The slow moving stream still flows along,
But beside its banks, there isn’t a throng.
For times have changed the boys that be…
They are at home, watching TV.
Poem by Bill
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.