Cool Creek

Columbus could not have been more excited at the discovery of American than our 6-year-old granddaughter was during her discover at my daughter’s home in central Arkansas. Walking around the outside of the house that first day, the child spotted the nearby shallow creek strewn haphazardly with angular stones.
She wanted everyone to “come see, come see” what she had discovered.
Since I was baby-sitting the children, I had to tell her to wait while we gathered up the others and dressed them for exploring the creek. We took a couple steps across the lawn to the tree-lined waterway.
The youngest carefully made their way eagerly down the bank to check out the water, stones and trees, while their big sister scampered down and splashed her way upstream, looked all around at trees, rocks and water, threw out her arms and announced, “I will call this Cool Creek.”
It was her creek. She had found it, and therefore she could name it and explore it – at least the little stretch that I OK’d for the time being.
It really wasn’t dangerous. A whole 3 inches of water gathered in pools between the rocks where her sister and younger brother teetered into the newly discovered stream.
Big sister, made a game of walking on the dry rock tops from one bank to the other to announce, “I walked across the whole creek, without getting wet!”
I sat on the bank and watched the three of them totter and tip-toe their way up and down the creek. They explored the limits, the pools of minnows and the possibilities for using the mud from the creek bottom.
As I watched I remembered the times my parents took their five children to the “crick” by Ragan’s bridge to play. Underclothes sufficed for playing in the puddles along the edge of the creek. The older children dared to balance their way along the girder of the bridge and jump into the deeper pool right under the bridge. Leaving the safety of the edge of the creek to take the 6 foot plunge to the creek was a right of passage in my family.
But my grandchildren were still playing on the edge. “Let’s pretend we are poor and have to earn money by putting mud on the walls,” one said. They began scooping up the mud from the bottom of the creek where there were no rocks and smeared it on the concrete base of the bridge over the creek.
When her dad came home, the 6-year-old wanted him to see Cool Creek. He grabbed the video camera and followed her.
He taped her climbing a thin branch of an overhanging tree – and the sudden crack, as the branch split off the tree and dumped her into the creek. Her dad thought it was good enough for America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Her mother found the experience way too traumatic to watch in the reruns at home, let alone consider having anyone else view it.
The fall scared the child, but it did not keep her from dragging her aunt out of the house when she returned from town, “Come see the creek, I found.”
“A creek? Really.” Her aunt tried to be enthusiastic, about the waterway she crossed everyday on her way home. She found yellow T-shirts for both of them to wear. They spent an hour scooping up water and an occasional minnow to put in the aquarium.
Before we headed home, the Cool Creek discoverer and explorer announced, “Every time we come to Arkansas, let’s come here and play in the creek.”
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times.)