The great escape

Ed
Ed Smith
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Ah, the first full week of summer. That week was enough to gladden the heart of any red-blooded adolescent. Suddenly, you were out of the fog and the cold and the misery of June and school. Suddenly, you could throw off your windbreaker, tear off your worsted sweater and run around in a light cotton T-shirt or nothing.

When you went troutin' you needed your windbreaker to keep from scratching your arms to pieces on the boughs as you tore through the bushes on your way up the brook and around the pond.

The view from here - Ah, the first full week of summer. That week was enough to gladden the heart of any red-blooded adolescent. Suddenly, you were out of the fog and the cold and the misery of June and school. Suddenly, you could throw off your windbreaker, tear off your worsted sweater and run around in a light cotton T-shirt or nothing.

When you went troutin' you needed your windbreaker to keep from scratching your arms to pieces on the boughs as you tore through the bushes on your way up the brook and around the pond.

You might see a trout breach on a calm day about a half-mile around shore. Off you'd go like a rabbit pursued by a pack of starved wolves, splashing through deep water and jumping over rocks until you got to the spot and threw out your bobber.

By that time, the arse would be out of your pants, there'd be a rip six-inches long in your new rubber boots and there wouldn't be a dry spot on your entire young person.

By that time, too, the trout (or one even bigger my son) would be breaching back at the exact spot from whence you had just sprung. Nothing for it, but to head back to that spot with the same desperate abandon.

In this manner, a pond of two or three miles circumference could be more or less circumnavigated in one day. In this manner, too, you had a six-inch patch sewn on the seat of your pants and your long rubbers cut off into lumps.

But what did you care? The water in the brook was now warm enough to go swimming.

Well, almost. Further up in the woods the little rivulets and streams might have to go through a foot or two of cold snow before finding its way into the bigger brook. But after a day or two and a kilometre or two of sun, the nippiness would be just about gone out of it except for the faint hearted and older girls who were there only to be seen in the flesh, more or less, anyway.

Besides, we had a system for making that water seem as warm as the various solutions of pee that went into it on a regular basis. Some people thought the level of the brook went up while we were swimming because of all the bodies immersed in it. We boys knew different. Didn't bother us. We gave as good as we got, so to speak.

Our pool in the brook was just 100 yards or so from where the brook emptied into the saltwater. The salt water was cold with a capital C and a couple of exclamation marks.

If you wanted the brook water to feel warm, the trick was to walk off into the saltwater and suddenly and completely immerse yourself in it, being careful not to let vital organs be so immersed longer than 1.5 seconds. Otherwise, lasting damage could result. When you ran back and jumped in the brook it was like leaping into lukewarm bathwater.

This process was called, "getting used to it" and was roughly analogous to exposing your naked body to several dozen killer bees in order to get ready for one mosquito.

The reverse of getting used to it took place when getting out of the brook. It involved running back and forth on the bank until the resulting breeze had you pretty well dried off. Then you could lie back and enjoy the sight of the older girls, more or less, especially those who were more as opposed to less.

You left when they did and not a milli-second sooner. Then you raced home to grab some supper so you could get over the road and gnab the best places for watching the girls as they strolled by and imagine them as they were all afternoon.

Thank God these were pre-thong days.

The first full week away from school was better than Christmas, Halloween and bonfire night rolled into one. For the first time in 10 months you were free, man. You left home in the morning, got back for a bite of dinner, appeared again suppertime, by which time you had worked up a bit of an appetite. Then you were gone again until well after dark.

In the morning you went catchin' off the wharf where the brown tomcods and the blue-green conners (sea perch to you, ma'am) and the great ugly sculpin hung out. If you were lucky enough to latch onto the right species of sculpin (gurnets to you, ma'am), you could throw them back into the harbour and watched them blow up full of air.

It could never get back under water and inevitably drowned. Out of pity for its circumstance, we boys would pitch sharp rocks at it until one found its mark and the air burst out and the unhappy creature disappeared into the depths.

After dinner we went swimming, or if it was too cold for that, we played football (soccer to you, ma'am) or baseball. There might be a fight or two break out over the afternoon, but not usually. We were so happy to be out of school and into the summer's recreational program we were full of nothing but good will toward all and sundry.

After supper the entertainment was endless. Smoking behind someone's barn, playing poker up behind the big rock, showing off in front of someone's cousin who had just come out for the holidays, perhaps a Hopalong Cassidy western in the Orange Lodge, finding your favourite girl to walk home and so on and so on.

A full day in any man's language.

Nothing in my experience has ever surpassed the magic and the glory of that first week away from the dull monotony of a school system that brought little joy to anyone.

Especially me.

Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca

Geographic location: Springdale

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