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Boys' life: walking the creeks looking for snakes to shoot

LIFE HAPPENS

Boys' life: walking the creek and looking for snakes

Posted Saturday, May 30, 2020 9:00 pm

GARY MATHENY "In the summertime when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky; when the weather's fine, you got women, you got women on your mind; have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find."” — MUNGO JERRY MUSICIAN (1970) GARY MATHENY That song brings back lots of memories of summer days hanging out with friends. In 1966, my parents moved the family from South Bibb County (Macon, Ga.) to Jones County about 12 miles away. It was the summer after my seventh-grade year and being a young man about to enter the years of "teenage-dom" — maybe I can get by with that newly made-up word — it was an unsettling time. I would enter a new school in the fall, make new friends and adjust to the world of acne, hormones and the uncertainness of a new life. I immediately discovered that there was a family in the neighborhood and one of the kids was a little older than me, so I attempted to adjust. I met Tommy and we became great friends from the start, doing everything together which included getting on his older brother's nerves daily. Tommy had three sisters and three brothers, older and younger, and like most kids we were all intertwined with other beings in the neighborhood. As the weeks went on, I met others in the community ... becoming friends, spending the days at each other's houses or just hanging out. Girls, boys, boys and girls, it was fun just meeting up. There was a large stream that ran through the lower part of the area known as Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek was fairly deep in some areas, but for the most part it was so shallow you could simply walk it and only getting your feet wet. In one area, a massive set of rocks afforded you a great place to sit and hangout while listening to the water flow. It was the gathering spot for numerous things. Teenagers would come sit and talk. You could fish off the rocks. Some used it as a ... parking spot, but it was slippery. On more than one occasion it was the reason for an emergency-room visit for a sprained wrist; however, most of the time it simply caused scrapes and bruises. Being 12 years old, I never had the opportunity to handle a rifle or shotgun, with the exception of Boy Scout camp and the supervised shooting range. But, some of the guys actually owned shotguns. My dad worked at one of the largest Air Force bases in the state — Robins AFB — and one day he and I were conversing in actual words. At that age even then, I didn’t spend much time talking to my dad which I know now was a mistake.   The mention of fighter pilots in those massive, fast-flying planes at Robins came up. He told me that most of those pilots were young men, 19 to 24 years of age. I asked why they allowed them to fly those fast planes at that age. I mean, they were only seven years older than me. His answer has resonated with me till today. He said, “At that age, they do not know fear. They don’t understand it until they get about 25.” Old men have plenty of wisdom because it has taken years to develop. Back to the story. Tommy, our buddy Jimmy and I would take shotguns and walk the creek.   The area was lined with trees on either side and branches hanging over the water.  Roots from the trees on the bank were growing into the water, leaving a large opening underneath. Now, at the time I did not know what noodling was. I am really glad because, as already mentioned, being only 12 we didn’t know much fear. As we walked the creek we looked for snakes to shoot. In Georgia, there is one vicious water snake that is mean, aggressive and doesn’t like people:  the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin.  He is not like most reptilian varmints. He will aggressively seek you out and make you his victim. We enjoyed shooting them out of the trees, but only if we actually killed them before they hit the water. Otherwise, we were the hunted. Occasionally, during our ventures down the creek we would find one of those holes where the water was deep enough to swim and being kids, loving the water, we would strip to our underwear and go swimming. That's the normal thing to do when you are around water and it’s hot. This one day, it was really hot and we came up on our favorite swimming hole. So, we took our clothes off and in we went. Now, the girls in the neighborhood walked the creek, too. Yep, you know where this goes. They saw our clothes and knew we were mostly naked. So, they decided simply to hang around and talk to us ... which, of course, wrinkled our skin like prunes from the cold water. Fun memories. The more I write, the more that fill my head. Someone — but I don't know who — is credited with saying, "Things end, but memories last forever.” Yet, my favorite goes something like, “Life brings tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade, but the memories last forever.” ——— (About the writer:  Gary Matheny is retired after a long career in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now a Cleveland resident, he is the author of two books, "If The Shoe Fits" and "The Bullet." He also writes a popular blog, "Life Happens." Email him at gary.matheny@yahoo.com and follow him at his website, www.garymatheny.net.)

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