The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Day I Drowned

By Jack Lowe © 1996

Issue: Summer, 1996

If I live to be 100, I shall never forget the day I downed. It was mid-July. We were in the midst of a drought. It hadn't rained in almost eight weeks. For the last six days the temperature had been 100 degrees or above.

I was eleven years. About an hour after lunch I decided that I would go swimming to cool off. The swimming hole was about a half-mile from my home. It was on Beaver Creek.

Beaver creek meandered at the back and to one side of our local Paper Mill. The swimming hole was located under a railroad trestle that carried the tracks into the mill.

When I left home, the asphalt in the street was so hot that every step you took, it left your foot print in the hot tarry asphalt. When I took my first step, you could see the heat waves rising from the street.

About half way on my journey, I stopped at a grocery store to buy a Coke, so that I could cool  off a bit.

When I arrived at the swimming hole, there were about seven or eight boys already in the creek. Some were playing water tag and others were splashing each other or swimming.

I pulled off my clothes and donned my swimming suit. My swimming suit consisted of an old pair of overalls, with the legs cut off just above the knee.

Although I couldn't swim, I jumped in the shallow part and sat down in the water. After a bit, I decided that I wanted to go on the other side of the stream. I asked one of the tall guys to carry me across to the other side on his shoulders. One of them agreed and I climbed onto his shoulders. When he started across and got to the middle, he then turned and headed up the creek, where it was deeper. When he got to the point where the water was just below his nose, I panicked and grabbed his head, thereby pulling his head under the water. To save himself, he threw me off into the deep water. When my feet touched the bottom the second time I knew I was drowning. My only thought was to get to shallow water, so I kicked my feet, hoping that would propel me to where the water was not over my head. But it didn't work. So, I went down the third time. About then one of the older boys, whose name was Arnold, jumped in and grabbed me by the hair and pulled me to safety. He then got one of the other guys to help him to get me onto the bank. He turned me upside down, so water would drain out of my lungs. it was lucky for me that he was a Boy Scout and had training in rescue work. So he began to give me artificial respiration. After a while I began to gasp for breath and I finally began to breath normally.

About three or four weeks after the above incident, I received a letter from the Boy Scouts of America, wanting to confirm that Arnold had saved my life from drowning. I answered back in the affirmative and in about another month, Arnold received a citation and medal for saving my life.