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Gondoliers became a common sight on the pond at our house. Their feet coated with mud/poop pudding while gliding by on submersible rafts made these gondoliers quite uncommon.
David and I didn’t lament a pool’s absence; we had two cow ponds to fill the gap. Neither one was deep enough for actual swimming.The further pond was a glorified mud/cow-poop hole. The closer pond had the same mud and poop mixture, but was lighter on the poop. Depending on the season and the weather it also held two or three feet of water.
A wooded hillside filled with Adder-tongues, Trilliums, and hanging Tarzan vines bordered the furthest side of the closer pond. The same items that surrounded our clubhouse (cows, cow pies, and woodchuck holes) bordered the remaining circumference.
The steepest part of the pond-bank, also the side least pooped on, is where David and I created a mud slide. Slide maintenance required constant splashing of water and removal of pointy stones rising up to leave long red slashes on our behinds.
Clothing coming into contact with the black muck never looked clean again. To help Mom, we stripped to our undershirts and underwear. Dingy white undies wouldn’t matter unless we got caught in the proverbial accident all mothers warn you about.We previously tested the cleaner water in a cow trough near the barn, but it was too small to do much except pretend to scuba dive. Thirty-four degree ice water (from a deep well) constantly dribbled into the trough, freezing our submerged heads and taking our breath away. As the divers resurfaced, floating ribbons of slimy cow drool clung to our hair.
We stopped swimming in the cow’s drinking water, but they continued peeing and pooping in our pond.
David and I built two rafts from our abundant supply of used lumber and rusty nails. With much effort and teamwork, we dragged our sailing vessels from the clubhouse to the pond.
We slid our rafts across a moat of mucky mud to reach the water. We quickly learned to remove our sandals before they got suctioned off, never to be found again.
Our skinny weight managed to sink our rafts slightly below the surface. This became an unintended, but delightful feature.
First, the water above our rafts washed the first couple inches of entry muck off our feet and kept them cooled. Second, our submerged vessels were like glass-bottomed boats, but without the glass.
An aquatic assortment of sea-life paraded across our rafts and feet, everything from fat pollywogs to baby bullhead. I didn’t like the water striders, especially when they climbed up my bare leg.We pushed our rafts around the pond with poles made from dead branches. Sometimes we pretended to be gondoliers singing Oh sole oh me oh; not the song, just the phrase over and over, since it’s all we knew.
We rescued each other when a pole broke in half or remained stuck in the muck while our raft glided away.
Mom and Dad didn’t have to worry about us capsizing and drowning. The worst that could possibly befall us was getting stuck up to our knees in the mud and eaten alive by mosquitoes, a fate we expertly escaped.
Our imagination and creativity exploded while developing carpentry and submersible raft skills.
Lessons learned: Give a kid a new toy and he’ll play a few days. Give a kid some used wood, rusty nails, and skanky water, and he’ll play all summer–if he doesn’t get tetanus or cow manure poisoning first.
And in case anyone is wondering, a mud/poop bath does not soften your skin.
Now it’s your turn: Did you ever build a raft?
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