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Friday, October 19, 2012

'Playing Barefoot Along the River Bank'

In the last decade Columbus, Georgia has build a River Walk Park along the Chattahoochee River.  It is miles of sidewalks, parks, and scenic views of the river.  That was not the case when I was growing up in Columbus.  Between 5 - 8 years old, my family lived in cotton mill houses on the Chattahoochee River.  Behind our little white 4 room house the Chattahoochee River flowed against the edge of our backyard.  It wasn't much of a backyard since it sloped downhill with black dirt and ended at the Chattahoochee River bank.  I remember playing alone on the river bank many times.  I would slide down the black dirt slope and wave my feet in the murky muddy waters. I only wore shoes to school but not for play.  I was always running outdoors barefooted.  I collected water bugs and put them in a jar.  I would climb back up the hill covered in muddy black dirt.  I never fell into the rushing waters which was very lucky for me indeed.

Large river rats hide in the rocks on the bank and would slip into our house at night.  It was frightful hearing those large rats race across my bedroom floor.  I was afraid to get out of my bed at night because of the rats.  They were at least a foot long and/or as big as an adult cat.  My parents worked in the cotton mills at that time and they were in their early 20's.  They allowed me a tremendous amount of freedom running around the river bank and the neighborhood.  I don't remember them every asking me where I had been.  My mom would call my name from the back porch when she wanted me to come home for supper.  I usually heard her calling my  name regardless of where I was. 

My little friends and I would get into plum fight wars.  There were a lot of plum trees growing wild close to the river and picking green plums and throwing them at your friends was so much fun!  Plum battles were common during the summer months.  We also played baseball with broken tree limbs and used broken pine planks as bases.  I don't know where we came up with a ball but we managed.  I almost sound like a street kid don't I?  I was a river kid who like 'Huckberry Finn' lived on the river bank and made my friends there; played there; had adventures there.  I played barefoot along the river bank and it was memories I will always cherish.  I didn't know I was poor since all my friends were poor like me. We were river bank kids from poor, hard-working, cotton mill families and happy.

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