Natatorial Frolics In a 'Heated' Pool
A NONRESIDENT taxpayer paused to bid adieu, and said he was fortunate to acquire a new condofluvium in the Sunny South for the winter, an improvement on previous seasonal accommodations, and it has a heated pool.
I said that was just dandy and wished him a pleasant sojourn. Then I turned my thoughts to my jaunty boyhood, and the heated pool we boys had at Nickerson's Creek (krik). In those impoverished days nobody thought of going south to avoid a Maine winter, and nobody along our Atlantic Coast ever thought of dipping into the ocean. Our Atlantic isn't any colder in the summer than it is in the winter, and if you've been along the Maine beaches and presidential mansions you'll recall the signs that entice the t ourists to bide:
That's about the size of it.
Summer ablutions in True's Brook were not too bad. This was a spring-fed stream that came out of Potter's woods and ran about a half mile through True's pasture, so it did get the sun, but it never warmed enough so it didn't support trout. Our Eastern Brookie, S. frontinalis, needs cold water to survive, and sometimes a trout would jump for a fly right in the pool where we boys were kicking. That was our unheated pool, and it was fresh water.
Our heated pool on Nickerson's Creek was something else again. Nickerson's was a tidal estuary that rambled through some salt marsh. At low tide it drained out to a trickle of fresh water. Then when the tide served we'd have 10 feet of water in our ol' swimmin' hole.
In March and April, during the runoff of snow water, Nickerson's was one of Maine's best smelt brooks. These little delicacies would come up on a tide in great spawning schools, and a dip net would bring up a peck at a time. Sometimes, without a net, I'd run my hand and arm into the water and feel about to catch a smelt by the tail, and in this way brought home many a breakfast for the family, but my arm would be numb right through June.
That such cold water would ever warm up is hard to believe, but it did.
The tide had to serve in the afternoon, and the sun had to be bright. If the sun warmed the dry banks of the creek all morning, the incoming tide in the afternoon would absorb the heat and fill our pool with tepid water. A night tide and a lowery day didn't do anything for us. So along in late May we'd get a bright morning filled with promise, and coastal boys always knew the time of the tide. It would be the day to go to the Nickerson pool. The only trouble was that we were supposed to be in school that
afternoon reciting the prepositions and memorizing the counties of Maine in alphabetical order and naming the principal exports of Central America. But I've always believed that Miss Baker, our teacher, was equally aware that summer pulled at us boys and was not surprised that the afternoon session was feminine. Well - Pudgy Littlehall didn't skip, because he was a student, and neither did Teacher's Pet, Ronald Fotherhall.
Miss Baker, understanding but bound to the formalities, would send one of the girls to the basement with a note for Mr. Foster. Mr. Foster was the school janitor, and after a long winter of stoking the school furnace he was glad for a warm day of idleness and would be sitting in his Morris chair putting in his time. He would receive the note, telling him the names of Miss Baker's absent boys. Mr. Foster was also the town truant officer.
It always happened, and it always happened the same way. Mr. Foster knew very well where to find us. He would come ambling the footpath through the puckerbrush to the brink of our sequestered and heated pool, and he would discover us at our vernal and natatorial frolics. I suppose he would stand a moment to recall his boyhood and envy us. Then in a stern voice he would bespeak us, and 70 years later I can hear him still. "Boys! Which of you ain't in school?"
Then he'd turn away and go back to his Morris chair. Miss Baker, next morning, would smile while we sang "Good morning..."