Tom Creek Tomfoolery

It certainly was not a river, and Tom Creek, as creeks go, wasn't really all that much of a creek either!  It was our creek that flowed through our pasture during my childhood, and I guess that is why I have a soft spot in my heart for old Tom Creek!  It could nearly stop flowing during a dry, hot summer, and my dad related that it actually was not much more than potholes during the dry 1930's.  There were enough springs that some of the creek always provided enough water for the livestock. Once during the 1930's, the well ran dry, and my dad was forced to hitch up a team of horses to the stoneboat, load available barrels or whatever would hold water, and head for the "spring hole" on Tom Creek.  There he would fill the barrels by dipping up pailful after pailful until everything was filled.  He then would head back up the hill to the farmstead to fill the water tanks for the thirsty livestock and poultry.  This was a tedious job, day after day, until a new well was dug.

I don't believe my mother was too happy about our excursions to Tom Creek in the summertime.  I am sure she wasn't thrilled to see mud-covered clothes and kids arrive home following an afternoon at the creek.  If there happened to be a sand-bottom pool in the breadth and with of Tom Creek, we certainly never discovered it!  After discarding shoes and socks, we would set foot in the soft, oozy, mud in the bottom of the creek.  There was water, and it felt might good on a hot summer day!  So we ignored the mud!  We usually managed to get totally wet before setting off for home.

We always had riding horses, and another way we could thoroughly enjoy Tom Creek was to ride through the crossings at top speed which sent the water flying in every direction, giving us a wet shower and blessed relief on a hot summer day!  The horses didn't seem to mind getting wet either even though they had to battle the mud bottom of the creek!  Then there was Pensive, our riding horse, that could not resist the opportunity offered in the creek crossing.  She would simply decide to lie down!  She probably had a double purpose in mind.  She could cool off and possibly drown some of the flies that were tormenting her!  The rider was strictly on her or his own in getting his feet out of the way and getting prepared for getting drenched!  The members of our family were aware of Pensive's tendency when crossing, so we would slap her with the reins, kick our feet, and hurry her through the creek crossing before she could get set to lie down!  But she often caught our guest riders unaware, and they would have a take to tell of their experience while crossing Tom Creek!

 On occasion, we would pack a sandwich (probably peanut butter) and an apple, grab some string for a fishing line, a couple of hooks, and a suitable stick or tree branch and head for the fishing holes on Tom Creek.  I can't really remember catching anything very big, but the little sunfish were pretty scrappy.  It was always quite exciting to feel the tug on the lines or watch our cork bobbers dance.  Since my father was an avid fisherman, we always knew where to go for a hook or two or a piece of fishing line.  We would dig in the garden to find some worms, and if they weren't available, there was always an abundance of grasshoppers which seemed to get results.  Although, as I recall, the grasshoppers usually meant more turtle bites than fish bites.  The turtles were pretty difficult to land and managed to deplete our bait supply.

If there was a dry spell, there were several places where a person could cross Tom Creek by hopping from rock to rock.  There was a certain risk involved in this venture as the rocks could be slippery or farther apart than estimated which meant getting a wet foot.  If the day was hot and the wet foot felt good, there seemed to be no reason whatsoever in not just jumping in and getting totally wet!  We didn't have swimsuits, but our everyday clothes seemed to serve the purpose!

Our favorite place to ride horseback was through our pasture which wound around the eastern edge of our farm following the twists and bends of Tom Creek.  At the extreme northeast corner of the pasture was a patch of backwater filled with water lily pads and blossoms. It was a pretty and interesting spot to admire.  There, lounging on horseback while the horse grazed, we could watch the butterflies, dragonflies, and frogs land on the lily pads.  It was a peaceful, idyllic place.  I haven't been there for years and often wonder if the lily pond is still there.

Tom Creek was normally a small, quiet, meandering stream, but in the spring aafter a heavy snow melt or a summer "gully-washer and trash-mover" deluge measured in inches, Tom Creek could go on a rampage to match the best of them! Water would quickly reach bank full and then spread out over the whole lower pasture.  Fences fave way under the onslaught of flood waters, and the approach to the bridge on the south road washed out many times.

When we were children, we built bridges and dams across the shallow part of the creek.  We had one encounter with a huge, ugly, old mud turtle.  We stuck a hefty stick into its mouth, and it promptly clamped on to it.  We amused ourselves by pulling it around from a safe distance of 4 or 5 feet.  Finally the old turtle got tired of the game, opened its mouth, released the stick, and ambled toward the deeper pool where we liked to wade and splash about.  Needless to say, we avoided that spot for the rest of the summer.

When summer ended and school started, we looked forward to winter when Tom Creek would freeze over and give us a nice skating rink.  Bundles up in several layers of warm clothing, we spent many active hours skating on the creek.  We had some old clamp-on skates that someone had given us, and believe me when I say, we spent more time trying to get the skates adjusted and clamped on tightly enough to do some good than we actually did skating!   Sometimes, we would just run and slide on our leather-soled shoes after ditching our rubber overshoes!

We didn't have TV or computer games in those days.  There were no summer recreation programs, summer sports, or church camps available for children.  We had to conjure up our own entertainment, and often Tom Creek activities came to our rescue!  Not withstanding some of our encounters with the unpleasant nettle which grew on the bank so profusely or an occasional snake or bloodsucker that would put in an appearance to startle us, we kept going back whenever we found an opportunity.  We were expected to do some chores such as hoeing morning glories in the cornfield, gathering the eggs, and watering the chickens for my father.  We had to help Mother with the gardening, cleaning the house, and making beds, but we usually could find some leisure time to pursue our own activities especially at Tom Creek.

I can't help but feel sorry for the youngsters that grew up without a creek or river than ran nearby.  The opportunities to wile away a summer hour or two were endless and made our summers particularly somehow special!

Provided by Evelyn Halverson
Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner


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