The weather outside is frightful, but the creek is so delightful. Yep, yesterday was the first full day of summer, and it is as if the weather decided to make sure we knew it. Suddenly the mild June that we had marveled over morphed into a hot, sultry monster.
And I love it.
Call me crazy, but I love summertime. I start thinking about homemade ice cream, home-grown ‘maters slapped on mayonnaise-laden bread, lightning bugs sparkling in the night and the bubbling of the refreshing creek.
I have a creek in my backyard, and it is one of my favorite things about this property. It’s not what it once was, due to this hot weather, but still its refreshing waters trickle merrily in sight of my window. I think creeks, streams, rivers are some of God’s best gifts to us.
On most farms in days gone by, the old paths meandered down to a creek. There clear waters flowed lazily downstream, wandering toward some larger body of water, murmuring in bubbling brook-language.
The creek, sometimes pronounced “crick” by old-timers, was often a haven on sultry days when summer’s sun blazed down on rural fields. When the tobacco was in the barn or the garden vegetables all gathered at the end of the day, a trip down to the creek brought a refreshing coolness to scorched skin and weary muscles.
My third-grade teacher, Mrs. June Harris, has fond memories of her childhood creek on the Sanders Smith farm on Rosebud Road in Walnut Cove. “It was part of our entertainment,” she explains. “We didn’t have toys and all these electronic things the kids have today.” When the older folks would pull tobacco plants, Harris “got to play in the creek,” catching minnows in the cool water.
My creek memories involve Belews Creek, which flowed through Grandpa Bray’s farm when Belews Lake was just a distant future prospect. Mama and my Bray aunts–Sylvia, Louise and Sammie–would take us cousins down there to play when summer’s heat seemed unbearable. I distinctly remember my cousin Richard and I playing in the clear water, avoiding the shadowy, wooded banks where holes and crevices stared darkly out at us, holding the threat of snakes. Cousins Mark and Tana were older and braver and ever tried to torment us younger ones.
Long ago, rural residents used farm springs, or branches as they were sometimes called, to keep things cool. Often a family had a milk well in the branch where milk was kept cool in pre-refrigerator days.
My daddy’s creek memories are far more detailed than mine. He recalls leading the horses, cows and mules to the spring just beyond his boyhood home where he still lives. Down at Belews Creek on the farm, Daddy made a wealth of memories. He used the creek for practical purposes like watering tobacco plantbeds in the spring. On summer Saturday nights, he and his three brothers often took a bar of soap down there to get cleaned up for Sunday morning.
On summer days, Daddy might cut a reed, fasten a line and hook onto it, dig some worms and fish for knottyheads or horneyheads in the creek–sometimes catching 25-30 of them. Other days he would make a minnow seine from two tobacco sticks and a piece of window screen. With this contraption, Daddy caught minnows to take to local ponds to catch bass.
A friend of my daddy’s–Hardy Southern–taught Daddy how to catch cootiensnappers–hard worms that lied under piles of wet leaves in the creek bed. The boys would sometimes look under rocks to capture spring lizards, another favorite bait for bass.
On summer nights, my daddy might gig for eels in Belews Creek. He made his own gig by driving about five nails in the end of a two by four and cutting the heads off the nails. By the light of a lantern or a pine branch, he and his friends would gig eels to be eaten by their families. One night they gigged a snake and “ran like chickens,” he says.
Swimming was probably the most common use for farm creeks on hot summer days. Daddy still laughs when he remembers the day he, Leon Hawkins and Monroe Joyce got caught skinny-dipping by old man Binkley. They had snatched a watermelon from a feller’s patch in the bottoms and put it into the water to cool while they swam “naked as jaybirds,” he recalls.
I can’t exactly swim in my little creek, but I am refreshed daily just to look at it as I go about my daily chores. And every now and then, I walk through the lush green grass to the clay-laden banks and listen to the peaceful murmuring of the ever-moving waters.
And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a caring Creator who delights to give us such pleasures–even something so simple as a little creek that meanders along through sunshine and shadow.
This sentiment is echoed in a poem written by a good friend of mine–Inez Heath Brown–as she reminisces about the creek of her childhood days. . .
There’s a creek that flows near the bottom land beyond the old cornfields,
It winds itself with many crooked paths and has been there many years.
The water flows over the rocks and sand, it is clear and feels so cool,
And when you wade down the wet and soothing stream
You realize who and what is in command.
We often played there when we were young, we all had so much fun.
And now many years have passed, but the memories are our own
And the mighty old creek and cool swift water
Still keeps flowing on. . .
To see a beautiful, one-minute video I shot at a local creek (although not in the heat of summer!), click on this link. Hope you enjoy the loveliness of the site!