Shortly after last Thursday afternoon’s monsoon, the streets of Abilene came alive.
One man was kayaking, one kid was tubing, kids were riding their bikes through the mini-flash flood.
The experts say that’s a “no, no.” Swimming in flood waters is dangerous.
I should know. I did it. So did Ike.
The fear in the city is that a child will get sucked into the drainage system. The flood water I went “swimming” in was the old lake at Brown’s Park.
Most people know the story of the lake. In the 1960s the old lake part wasn’t open to the public. But we country rats knew every inch of the terrain: the waterfall, the bear cage, the incomplete lighthouse, the boat that really wasn’t a boat.
It’s all open area now.
One summer day in the mid 1960s it poured. It must have been a weekend. My folks had company. It had rained so hard that Turkey Creek had flooded back into the old lake. One could just see about two feet of the top of the BBQ grill north of the creek. That’s how high the water was. I thought it was pretty exciting.
Of course, I wasn’t around in 1951 when my folks on Pine Street had the furniture on cans of vegetables because the water was a couple inches deep in the living room. They didn’t think that was so thrilling.
This particular afternoon my brother, J.D. and I (yes, I am going to blame all of this on him) snuck out of the house with our swimming suits. We ditched the clothes under a tree and went “swimming.”
It was cool. Though I think of myself as a pretty good swimmer now, at the time: not so much. But the water really wasn’t that deep and I was never scared.
I remember seeing a guy fishing with a crossbow. He had a string attached and was shooting fish. He had nailed a carp and a drum. Neither are the best in satisfying the palette.
Needless to say, our return to home was not a pleasant one. Walking up the lane in our swimming suits we met the folks: Dad, in particular, with a hickory stick in his hand.
“My nose is itching,” my brother said, referring to the old wives’ tale that when your nose itches someone is thinking about you.
“Me, too!” I said which was usually my pat answer to anything my brother said or did.
When we got to the house, Dad beat us, too. Well, not really very hard. But, we learned an important lesson. It lasted about a year before we went on an adventure on the Smoky Hill River. But that is another story.
President Dwight Eisenhower had his own flood water experience.
In 1903 Dwight and his brother Ed caught a ride on part of a wooden sidewalk that was floating down Buckeye Avenue, he wrote in his book “At Ease: Stories I Tell to My Friends.”
“Accumulating several friends, we started off on a ride down Buckeye toward the river,” he wrote after a rain caused the city to flood. “It was great fun and as we went racing long, it turned out to be a wild ride. There seemed to be no reason for not staying with it as long as possible.
“We got to singing songs: ‘Marching Through Georgia’ for one, and as we floated fast toward Georgia, neither common sense nor timidity warned us that we were approaching a point of no return. Not for a minute did it occur to us that we might end up in the truly raging currents of the main river. None of us had ever seen so much and such fast water, stretching on either side, almost as far as we could see.”
A man on horseback persuaded the young Dwight and Ed to return home wading in waist deep water.
“Ed and I made our way home to find ourselves out of deep water and into deep trouble,” Eisenhower wrote.
The boys spent the next few days cleaning up the mess the flood had made around the house, including a cellar. Glad I only got the hickory stick.