Perhaps we really did have our work caught up, or maybe mom and dad were tired of our whining and let us children have our way. The latter is probably more true than the first, but there were times we made our way to the small creek that cut across the west corner of the home place.
It was far enough from the farm that it seemed like a vacation, but still it was close enough to walk or ride bikes on the dusty gravel road. The creek, which was too tiny to name, was the perfect place in the summer time when air conditioning was unheard of. Dad must have always hayed this small triangle or he had a cow or two grazing it as I don’t remember the grass ever being tall. But it was the water that drew us. On a hot summer day, the water was warm enough to walk in barefoot, it was usually clear enough to see the bottom.
Meadowlarks would sing for us, and Red-Winged blackbirds would perch on top of the one lone tree that had an undignified way of growing. No other trees to encourage it to grow tall and straight, its limbs just meandered every which way.
At the tiny creek we would find tadpoles and the little minnows. It wasn’t large enough to sustain fish. That was okay, we had more fun studying the teeny little snails who carried their home on their back than sitting quietly trying to catch a fish.
The graceful dragonflies captivated us. They were our friends, eating gnats and mosquitoes. Their iridescent colors that changed in the sunshine were in such beautiful hues, colors that we never saw in the biggest box of crayons. Their transparent wings gave a dainty appearance belying their apparent hardiness.
Whereas we brothers and sisters had to dare each other to be brave enough to go under the cement bridge when a car approached. That took some courage because who knew if the bridge could support the weight of the vehicle.
It became our hiding spot if our imagination led us to be a Revolutionary or Allied spy that day. Or maybe we were hero-minded, working against insurmountable odds with the Underground Railroad or the Resistance. Some days our imaginations let us be part of the plucky first settlers to northwest Iowa who sacrificed much in their new beginning.
If my aspirations were to be the next Loretta Lynn, no one knew or could tell. But I knew, from the sound of my echoing voice, that the coal miner’s daughter didn’t have to worry about this farmer’s daughter being any real competition.
All too soon, it was time to head back home. The cows needed milking and the calves got hungry too. So did we, and in the house there was never a shortage of mom’s good chocolate cake or ice cream. Back then, all farm kids were skinny.
Ah yes, the creek is a pleasant memory of my growing up on a farm. I am thankful my parents kept our summers fairly free from social and sports responsibilities. They sent us to Vacation Bible School and swimming lessons. Obviously they really worried about us drowning one way or the other.
And I guess they knew we needed some time to be free – just to be kids.