Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 8

MILL CREEK STORIES

Swimming Lessons
And then there was that canoe trick.

By MOLLY DUGGER BRENNAN | Illustration by JOSEPH MACKARETH

E

very summer, no matter what, I was enrolled in
swim class. I must have taken lessons for six or
more years. While that sentence may lead you
to assume that I am practically a female Michael
Phelps, you'd be wrong. I never, no matter how
hard I tried, passed the Beginner test.
How is that even possible? Because I took
"country" swimming lessons. There was no diving board.
There was no chlorine. There were no concession stands
or locker rooms. There was grass, a dilapidated dock hanging onto the edge of a largish pond or a smallish lake,
depending on your age and perspective. When I was five,
Olanksy's Pond looked like an ocean.
Our instructor was Mr. Baskins, a former Marine who
wore red swim trunks with the life guard insignia embroidered on them. I do not know what he looked like
with more clothes on than that and frankly, have trouble
imagining him wearing anything else. Pretty sure that
even if he were forced to wear a suit, those life guard
trunks would be underneath, ready to spring into hero
mode. You know, like Clark Kent had the Superman ensemble on underneath his business attire, ready to go at a
moment's notice.
Mr. Baskins looked like he'd been a Marine. Mr. Baskins
acted like he'd been a Marine. If ever there was a poster
boy for people who'd retired from the military, it was Mr.
Baskins. He was compact, all muscles, and had the short-

8

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est hair you could have and still claim to have hair. When
Mr. Baskins spoke, you listened. He didn't do any of the
typical Hollywood-style drill sergeant barking. No, he was
quiet and somehow that made him even scarier.
Mr. Baskins took his role seriously. As far as he was
concerned, he was preparing us for our mission. Our mission was to be unsupervised country kids every summer,
which could indeed be dangerous. We had access to farm
equipment, animals, ponds and rivers. We all went fishing or swimming almost daily. Remember, no one except
the movie theaters and hospitals had air conditioning
when I was little, so being near or in the water was crucial
to abating heat-induced crankiness.
The smallest children in class were sometimes afraid
to put their faces in the water. I can still hear Mr. Baskins.
"You are not made of sugar. You're not going to melt."
That was a new concept, difficult to grasp by someone
who's already suspicious about this whole face-in-pondwater idea. Upon hearing this, some kids thought their
faces might melt off if they put them in the water. Often
someone would start whimpering. That's when we'd get
"the speech." It was the same speech every year. It was Mr.
Baskins' big motivational piece.
"You want to be the best swimmer ever, don't you? You
want to make your mama and daddy proud, don't you?
You want your parents to be glad they paid for swimming
lessons, don't you?"


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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019

Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 9
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - 36
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2019 - Cover4
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