by Jean Gordon

Did anyone else play in the creek? As a child growing up in the country, the creek was often the rest and relaxation place for my sisters and I. After a busy week in the garden, picking blackberries or cleaning house, our treat was often a trek to the creek.

Less than a mile from our house, we’d often pack a picnic, take a rod and reel or simply go swimming. To get to the creek we had to walk down the road, through a couple fields and into the woods before reaching the cool creek.

There was nothing but good old-fashioned fun there with sisters and cousins. 

Both houses I lived in growing up had creeks nearby and so did our grandparents’ house in the Shiloh community.  

The highlight of many adventures was seeing the “creek creatures.” There were plenty of minnows, frogs, sometimes a mud turtle, crawfish under rocks that make little girls scream and once in a while, a snake would raise its head above water and glide through the waters. Snakes were scary and not a word was spoken until it was out of sight.

Mud turtles were another story. It’s been a few years ago now that I was helping a friend clear the creek banks at her country home. Why? I do not know. But I remember it being quite the experience. While clearing some brush from the bank, I saw a shell that was previously camouflaged under a mud pile. Thinking at first it was an old tire someone had carelessly thrown into the creek, I tapped gently on the shell with a hoe. And then it happened. The turtle began to creep slowly from underneath a muddy hiding place. Alive and well.

As a young girl growing up, I remember the parting words to our parents as we began our journey to the creek, “We’re going to the creek” and sometimes we might be gone all afternoon. I can almost hear the “Plop”, “Plop” as frogs made their smooth dives from the creek banks into the cool, clear refreshing waters.

The creek is where we molded our own pottery from clay we dug from the banks. Creeks are where we’d gingerly grab a crawfish by his tail and see how long we could hold on before throwing it down fearful of being pinched.

It was the creek where my sisters and I picked up rocks just to see the lizards swim faster than we could throw the rocks back down and it is where we’d dam up a section so we could at least “swim.”

I learned to bait hooks and take a fish off the hook while fishing at the creek. I also learned how to untangle red and white bobbers from the trees after temporarily losing control of my casting arm.

Creek banks are where our picnics consisted of Pork’n Beans, crackers, sardines, tomato sandwiches and cookies spread out on a quilt we’d brought from home — maybe right off a bed.

We sometimes played “baptism” in the creek and it was totally innocent as one of us was the preacher and the other was the new convert practicing for the real thing some day in a church baptistry.

A long time ago now it seems when US 74 was open our walking to the creek days were over.  Our secret place had been discovered and there was no longer walking access from our property. Even at our grandparents house in the Shiloh community, the age of modern driving convenience took our creek away. Somewhere underneath the construction area and new growth is a place where we escaped work and parents and had the times of our lives.

If I close my eyes sometimes I can still see the creek where the woods seemed to open into a whole new sacred, special place. Even right now if I stay quiet for a minute or two, I can almost hear the sounds of laughter coming from four sisters playing at the creek. Those were the days, my friends, down by the creek bank with turtles and frogs.

If there is a creek near your house, encourage the younger folks you know to visit the creek.

Jean Gordon is an award winning journalist and spent 48 years covering news in Rutherford County, her home. Contact her at: gordonjean211@gmail.com