by Ramona Cook

Children everywhere find ways and places to play. Those who live in remote places and those who live in the developed geographical locations, all find places to play and to enjoy life. Children are dreamers, they are innovative.

Most children love the water; but how does a child find access to a pool of water who lives in undeveloped areas where there are no swimming pools and no YMCA to instruct them about swimming? I happen to know what some of those children do.

I was born in the rugged and undeveloped mountains of West Virginia. When I say "undeveloped" I mean we had no electricity and no indoor plumbing. There was no telephone. Our only contact with the world was the radio, and occasional trips to the store, which happed about twice a year.

My birthplace is developed now and remains a beautiful place, but it was more beautiful when it was simply "natural."

Warm weather was a short seasonal experience. The creeks and streams were swollen when the Spring thaw came; the melted snow followed the pull of gravity rushing to the lowest level it could find, which was where we lived.

We followed the suggestion of our parents that if we wanted to swim then we must build a dam and capture the water so that it could be our swimming pool.

Rocks and bushes were plentiful so we set ourselves to finding the widest place of the creek to make as large a pool as we could build. This was possible only after the Spring thaw subsided enough that there was water flowing but not rushing downhill. We constructed "diving boards" and we dove and we swam; well, some of us did.

To allow children to be "in the wild" playing unsupervised may seem a neglectful act by our parents unless you were aware that we were trained from about 4 years old in how to survive in the mountains.

Our survival training included: how to find civilization in the event we got lost. We were taught which berries we could eat and those that were poisonous. We were trained to hear a Rattle snake, and to smell a Copperhead. Daddy taught us how to do the Indian Call that served as a communication/locater sound if you were lost and someone was looking for you. We learned how to build fires properly, and necessary first aid remedies of the mountains.

We were not permitted to carry a gun unless an adult was present, but we knew from a very early age how to use guns. The proper use of guns was strictly observed by us; if we pointed even a water pistol at anything living, we were in big trouble to include a spanking. Daddy told us to never point a gun at anything we did not intend to kill and to eat; this was a rule that we observed as if disobeying it carried the death penalty.

So we were capable craftsmen for the building of our swimming pool. We knew how to watch for ourselves and for each other, so as to remain safe.

I could never learn the art of the "dive" and every time I tried all I could achieve was "the belly bust." What a splash that made! Not only did it make me an object of teasing with the other children, but it made my stomach hurt. So I learned to slide into the water from the creek bank. It won for me no acclaim with my peers, but I enjoyed the water and the swimming despite my minor deficits.

Life is like that; we may not be able to do the fantastic feats, but we need not recluse from engaging ourselves in the good things that give us enjoyment, even if we are not the top of the heap in its performance.

Ramona: 09/23/2013

Ramona,  Master in Ministry Arts, BA in Biblical Studies, I am an Ordained Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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