I was thinking about how warm it is today, the last day of January, 2012 and thought, "A hundred years ago, I would have gone skinny dipping on a night like this." We didn't see many mild winters in the hills. Our days would be filled with chopping wood or hauling enough wood from the woodpile so we didn't have to go back that week. Snakes like woodpiles, even thought they were suppose to sleep in cold winters, even now and again, they could be spotted. If it was nice like this in mid-winter, I know we would take the pick up out to the lake and park as close to the water as the trees would allow. We would have some rocks to throw near the bank to get rid of the water snakes before we shed our cloths and took a leap off the tailgate. In the summer, this was a frequent pastime
Now, I didn't think about snakes today because I was in court, did I tell you my job was working with folks in court? That means working with attorneys too. Most of them I have met are not snakes but very nice people. Some attorneys I met, I understand all the snake and shark jokes, but most of them are about these very few that can make a profession so colorful.
Pickup truck lights were probably pretty foolish, along with rock throwing to scare away snakes, some water snakes were poisonous. It is a wonder I made it out of there with minor scrapes and cuts when night swimming. There were also close shore trout lines to check for in the bad light. But kids, you know, we were fearless. It wasn't alcohol, just our youth that rendered us invincible. Many times we could park next to boat ramps, thinking the day time traffic made it impossible for snakes to nest or hunt for food in these oil slicked areas. There was nothing else that said summer chilling like the feel of the cool black water and the beauty of the ripples that reflected the headlights as we floated on our backs while listened Joplin or Jim Morrison blasting on the eight track out of the cab of the pickup.
Magical nights filled with friends, cold water, no fear of snakes, then digging a pit to start a fire and huddle under old quilts. No sitting in front of a TV, watching DVR'ed shows because we can't stand to miss one episode of our favorite series. No sitting at a computer to see how many points we can rack up on the latest game. Just a bunch of kids, who in adolescence graduated swim suits, modest favor over the birthday suits before we could drive trucks to the lake, talking about the next football game at the high school and loving life as we warmed our faces but froze our backs. We inhaled not only the fragrant smoke from the Ozark pines but also a passion for living fearlessly. Every single one of us could not wait to leave the Ozarks and make our way in the world of the non hillbilly.
I was one of the unlucky few that made it out. Now I recall my time but view my past best days in the Ozarks as a child views an impossible image in a make believe snow globe. These days, boat ramps are monitored, most have flood lights and cameras. Lakes are patrolled and night swimmers are fined. Fires can only be burned in designated areas inside fire pits, usually after a fee has been paid and wood purchased.
How will life change in the next 60 years? What will that generation look back upon with wonder and fondness? My hope for this new and young generation is that they find their own way to their version of snakes, pickups and midnight fun without using a computer.