Sometimes getting the waterside experience requires a little creativity—and trespassing and petty theft
People tend to do really stupid things around water. They depend on inflatable crafts when moving over sharp rocks. They jump from tall structures into unknown depths. They wear clothing that isn’t age appropriate.
Don’t get me wrong. As someone who does stupid things regardless of my geographical location, I relate to the desire to push boundaries in the name of fun. There’s no other explanation for why I’ve allowed myself to be pulled on an inner tube at thirty-five miles per hour behind a motorized vehicle that is following very few operational laws. Or for why I keep sharing embarrassing stories about myself in this column.
Growing up, I was pretty explicit in my requests that my parents move our family to some place lakeside. I had friends whose families had homes on Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, and as far as I could tell, they had a good thing going. Interestingly, though, my parents didn’t leave the family’s real estate choices up to a ten year old, and so we remained landlocked.
Not one to let something like lack of proximity get in the way of my fun, I began a detailed and elaborate plan to dam up a small stream in my neighborhood. It was easy to talk my brother, Everett, and his friend Robert into accompanying me on this venture because of its completely destructive nature. While Everett and Robert usually preferred easier paths to destruction—namely, fire—they were lured in by the idea of a true neighborhood swimming hole.
The stream was located in a small patch of woods behind a neighbor’s home. That it was not in one of our families’ yards was inconsequential. As a kid, I followed a strict socialist doctrine of what’s yours is mine when it came to neighborhood property. I also followed this policy when it came to my parents’ tool collection, and so we confiscated their shovels and clippers in the name of the project.
Building the dam took several days of digging and cutting—a process that was prolonged due to Everett and Robert attempting to find ways to make the experience more dangerous. (Related: It’s harder than you’d imagine to create a fire on top of water.) Eventually, though, we built a dam. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing beavers would rave about, but it effectively blocked the stream enough that we could soak ourselves—in a small, muddy pool of water.
We thought it was glorious. My neighbor, who had once enjoyed a wooded stream in her backyard but now had a giant mud puddle instead, may have felt differently. My parents, who never saw their clippers or shovels again, definitely felt differently. To this day I like to point out that we displayed impressive skills of innovation and problem solving—and my mom likes to point out that those were her favorite clippers.
I’d like to be able to tell you that my desperate ploys to spend summer days in water ended after soaking in a swampy backyard, but really my methods have just become more advanced. These days I beg and cajole those friends with lakefront homes to allow me to visit. But in my enthusiasm for being in the water, I’m still talked into activities I’d normally deem needlessly painful (see: wakeboarding). Oddly enough, though, practically having your arms pulled from their sockets behind a moving boat is more socially acceptable than digging a hole in your neighbor’s backyard. This is progress.