Growing up Appalachian – The Swimming Hole by Julie Clark

When my mother and father met there was much consternation on the part of my grandparents. My father was from the hills and my mother most certainly was not. Although that is a story for another moment, being my father’s daughter means I have a background many mock but one that I cherish.

I was born and raised so close to the Blue Ridge Mountains that one foot was on the grassy foothill with the other on the pine coated mountain. As much as life and time have moved and changed me physically, spiritually and emotionally that fact has never wavered. It’s taken decades but I finally feel free to be proud of my own heritage; a heritage perpetually misrepresented and one that most refuse to understand.

For those interested in getting a glimpse into this world I’m sharing posts here, on my website – as the moon and the mood strike – which will let you in on this world. But it’s only a taste. Our experiences as Appalachians are varied and often held close. But, I assure you, the memories I choose to share are real for they are mine.

The Swimming Hole

Many images of days gone by depict children jumping into pools of water on hot summer days. Ropes attach to branches, making the jump seem like a grand adventure. Current thoughts on the matter, however, are often less than kind. After all, the danger! There are all sorts of things “in there” to make snowflakes sick, tiger cubs twitch. “Don’t these people know what could be in the water?” we hear. “My goodness! How backwards can they be? Haven’t they heard of pools by now?” other voices mutter. “There is no way I’m letting my child in there!” others proclaim.

But, no, I never experienced any ailments or injuries. And, yes, I did know what a swimming pool was. We all did.



Fall 2016 W.NC by Julie Clark

Remembering my time in the swimming hole I’d be lying to say my middle sister and I jumped into the deep with reckless abandon. Hardly. What did I think of the swimming hole as a child? It was creepy. The water was black and up to my neck. Trees lined the bank, and all I could think of was whether or not water moccasins (whether they exist in that part of the state was irrelevant) were swimming next to me. My mom was a “city girl.” I use that term loosely, as back then that merely meant (in part) that plumbing came from town, not a well, but to her credit she encouraged us to enjoy the moment.  My cousins, meanwhile, thought we were a bit soft.

Where was this place? I couldn’t tell you where we went, neither could my mother. (We asked her, but it was so long ago, she wasn’t sure.) There were several swimming holes around, and I do recall my cousins frequently visited them. This wasn’t my only time in them, but I was young and memories do fade with time.

But critters? Snakes? Ticks? Yes, all those things were and are quite real. And, somehow, as children we played outdoors and survived it all. For me, a socially awkward child who had a different way of thinking compared to my peers, being outdoors in this part of the world was nothing short of heaven. Trees don’t taunt. Yes, ticks do bite (Lyme

J Clark – My Appalachian Face

disease did not exist here) and are very much a pain but once removed they fade from memory, unlike popular kids who treat you as a lesser than. There is fresh air and the feeling you are a part of something bigger than yourself. All this was and is in Appalachia. And I wouldn’t trade that memory of the cool yet creepy water for anything.

Did we ask to go back? No, not really. At least not that I recall. There was a sparkly new swimming “hole” in town with diving boards, clear water, chlorine and swimming lessons. My sisters and I spent many a summer’s day over there, instead. At this point, my mom was a single mom and this was a great place to spend the summer while she worked. My grandmother loved swimming, so off to the concrete pond we went.

Now decades later, the community pool is vacant; a man made eyesore left to the elements.

But swimming holes? They are still around. Yes, this GenXer has been there. But “real pools” were part of growing up, too. All of this equates to one small memory of growing up Appalachian. And it’s one I’m thankful for.



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