Parenting & Other Life Stories

Unsupervised Summer

One of the best adventures we had was also the most dangerous.

It was summer and everybody’s parents were gone to work, the trailer park was close to empty. Somehow we managed to find ourselves by the creek and we climbed down the ditch and swung into the big metal culvert where the water from the creek sat stagnantly. We didn’t stop to care. The air was muggy and the water was cool and welcoming.

Shoes and all we started trudging through the culvert to the far side. A car drove over the road top while we made our way through the culvert and it had a strange continuous deep resonant sound that bounced around inside. At the end of the culvert we bunched together looking at the open creek in front of us. There was no discussion we just started filing in. The water wasn’t too deep, rising to knee level, but the bottom was squishy and tugged at the shoes threatening to swallow them up. The sun beat down and reflected

Summer unsupervised

back off the water temporarily blinding us after the shade of the culvert. We started forward, single file pushing the water with our forward movements. Soon we were under the cover of trees and vines that grew over the water creating a brown and green tunnel. It was still hot but the shade and the water created a nice contrast.

The water started to get deeper. We were waist high in spots now, but nobody seemed to notice. We were laughing, joking, and splashing. It was terrifying when the lead boy sudden disappeared from sight completely; the water had consumed him. There was silence around us heavier than the heat, and it was like time had stopped before we started yelling. He hadn’t surfaced, why? Was something down there? I was fighting an urge to leap against the rough steep banks to try and escape the water and whatever was in it.

It truly is amazing the thoughts, emotions, and actions that can happen in the span of a few second and surely it must have been only that when the boy shot out from the surface of the water choking and sputtering. He was swimming. The creek apparently dropped off there to some unknown depth. He was moving away from us, yelling

Summer unsupervised 2

something. We didn’t wait to hear what. A few boys dove in to swim the gap with him, and a few of us gingerly pulled ourselves along the steep wall using vines and branches attached to the creek edge to get across the deep pool.

It was late afternoon before we found a spot that wasn’t too steep to climb out. We came up on the highway wet, leech covered, and smelling of algae, decomposition, and fish. It was a long walk back on the hot pavement and those of us that hadn’t lost our shoes in the creek choose to carry them because they sloshed horribly.

I don’t think anybody ever knew where we were that day or we probably would have been in serious trouble for our stupidity and recklessness. That said, we never went back to the creek. Once through seemed enough, a small rite of passage, and we moved onto other unsupervised summer activities.

By Shari Marshall – 2019