We hemmed and we hawed. We dithered and we debated. We vacillated and we oscillated. We wavered and we shilly-shallied.
In the end our decision to swim or not was made because of a recent visitor to our woods: the sun. The sky had been filled with gray clouds all morning, and while this made doing our chores more pleasant, it didnâ€™t bode well for an afternoon swim. So when the sun started making furtive appearances between the clouds, appearances that lasted longer and longer, we decided to take what was probably our last opportunity to go jump in a lake for the season.
I had chatted with Good Neighbor Brian a few nights before, and I spoke of our thoughts of getting in a last swim, saying I feared the water would be too cold after so many successive cool nights. He guffawed at this, saying that while the top few inches might be cold, the deep water still retained its summer heat. Good Neighbor Brian was mistaken.
We crept into the water, warmer at the surface than deeper down (which I had suspected, actually). Youâ€™re probably familiar with the sensation of easing into cold water. The icy feel inches up your legs as you progress. Once your feet have been in the water a few minutes, they donâ€™t seem to feel the cold (and not because theyâ€™ve gone numb), but the chill on your thighs is what youâ€™re paying attention to anyway. Then you go a little deeper and the water starts to soak your clothes. Somehow this seems even colder than the icy water against your skin. But you keep going, hesitating most of all before letting the water wash over your shoulders. You shudder and suck in a breath. And then it all passes and you donâ€™t feel so cold any longer.
But cold lurks in the deep waters. Kicking our feet and even paddling with our hands would swirl icy drafts of water up from below. This wasnâ€™t a problem in August when even the deep water was comfortably warm, but actual swimming proved a shivering prospect for us in the middle of September. Thus we swam over to the shallower area where we could stand on the bottom. By not making any movements, we were able to enjoy being in the water without feeling too cold.
The lake was filled, though not to full pool. It was down about two feet from that level, though our earlier inspection of the spillway showed that water had flowed over it not long before. The chunk oâ€™glass I have in the middle of the lake, showing where the best fish structure is hidden, was under water, and it looked like Isla de Peligro was also surrounded by water, but I didnâ€™t venture that far, having found a relatively warm spot in the sun and fearing making any unnecessary movements. This was also the reason I didnâ€™t go after Peregrine, which I could see floating in the shallows to the west.
When I say that we had found a warm spot in the water to stand, what I mean is that we werenâ€™t shivering as we stood there, hugging ourselves. The water was not warm, and every time the sun was obscured by a passing cloud, we could feel it. Our summertime swims can last a couple of hours. I donâ€™t think our swim on this September visit lasted a half hour. Unfortunately, the way out of the water lay across the deep. We had to swim our way over there to clamber out, and this meant stirring up the cold from below. The whole way was probably less than a couple hundred feet, but it was a cold way, and it seemed like the water was thicker than normal as we pushed our way through it.
Once out of the water, though, we felt the warmth of the sun on our skin again. We changed into dry clothes and stowed the rest of our gear to prepare for the drive home. Only a diversion to find a couple of peach Nehi floats slowed our progress, and that seemed worth the detour.
This likely was our last swim of the season, though a spike in temperature coinciding with a visit to the woods may give us just one more chance. A fellow can dream.
- Fawns have lost their spots.
- Persimmons start to ripen.
Today in Missouri history:
- Joseph Nash McDowell died on this date in 1868. As a doctor he founded the first medical school west of the Mississippi in St. Louis. It eventually became the medical department of Washington University. He was an eccentric man who wanted to test the preservative qualities of water dripping in caves by having the bodies of his recently deceased children suspended from the ceiling in one near Hannibal. Some neighbor children, including one believed to be Samuel Clemens, snuck in the cave and were frightened by what they saw.