Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Pond, The Problem, The Solution

                 Life for me as a kid almost ended in death. More than once. When I was 5 or 6, my dad had an irrigation pond on one of our farms. This was in about 1960 when farms were just getting developed and there weren’t many people out in the “blocks.” (The blocks were large areas of land containing future farms mapped out for identification purposes.)
The farmers who were there didn’t have much. A few had ponds, a reservoir for the irrigation pump to draw from. Farmers with ponds were the envy of the sparse neighborhood. Even though we were poor, we had a pond!

This is the exact pond I'm talking about. Except it is a quarter mile north of the spot of where the original pond was. Since I took this picture in the winter when the pond is dry, I had to photo-shop the water into it. And in the summertime, there aren't the tumbleweeds around it like in this pic. Other than those minor details, it's the same pond.

The kids in the area considered this dirty, algae-filled pollywog-infested pond a great luxury in the summertime. Most of them were older than I so it generated great excitement one hot afternoon when my dad dropped my sister and I off at the pond while he went back to work on the farm. I remember neighbors like the Cooks and the Goodsels were there with a few others; most were several years older than I.
My buddy Brian was my same age. He could swim like a fish. I couldn’t swim or even dog paddle. Most of the Cooks, including Brian, appeared to me to be Olympic-caliber swimmers. They even had webbed toes grown together for better water traction. Built-in flippers. That’s the truth! The flippers were natural, they came straight from the maternity ward like that. Brian was such a good swimmer that I sometimes suspected he had gills behind his ears.
Everyone was in the water or lounging around on the dirt sides of the bank. Brian took off swimming and I felt I just had to be out there with him, in case he got in trouble. Actually, I just didn't like feeling left out.

I found a wooden fence post lying nearby. I pulled it into the water, lay on my stomach on the top of it and paddled out in the middle of the pond. I enjoyed the newfound sensation of floating out there with the big boys. There was no realization of the danger involved. I don't remember being aware that the possibility of drowning even existed.
All of a sudden, the laws of physics kicked in. The heavy weight (me) on the top of the log met up with factors of gravity, weight and balance and the post rolled over. Instead of the continued enjoyment of basking on the top layer of the warm water and the bottom layer of the warmer sunshine, I encountered my first brush with the Grim Reaper. My enabler and makeshift flotation device, the post, was holding me under water. I was like a wrestler on his back with no clue how to keep from getting pinned.
This was a whole new experience for me. A half a century later, I can still hear the quiet yet deafening sound of the drowning water and see the light green hue of the underwater tomb. I didn’t know what to do. I let go of the log and hung suspended underwater in the middle of the pond. All of a sudden, I knew I was dead or at least in big trouble.
I had no idea how to swim and therefore had no options from which to choose. I was stuck. The only thing I could think of to do was pray and so I did. Thank goodness my parents were churchgoers and took me along for the ride! Immediately, inspiration came and not a moment too soon. The idea came to me I should push the water up with my hands, which would propel me to the bottom. I did this and soon was standing in mud about 8 feet underwater. My lungs were starting to hurt. I kept pumping with my arms to keep my feet on the bottom while slowly and carefully walking out of the pond.

It was a miracle that I knew which way to walk in order to reach the slope of the bank. I remember that I had to turn 180 degrees around to begin walking up the closest bank. I consider the  whole incident watched over by divine providence.
By the time the glorious air was reached above the water, I was about to burst. I was close to blacking out. A few seconds more and it would have all been over. If I hadn’t have been able to hold my breath as long as I did or if I hadn’t been inspired by the good Spirit to do exactly as I did and in that tight time frame, I would have drowned with no one on top the wiser. I lay on the bank for a long time after that just gasping for air and feeling very lucky.
I lay on the bank soaking in the sunlight and being so grateful for air and inspiration.
Many times in my life a Higher Power has watched over me. For me, this experience was a powerful witness that God does answer prayers. Sometimes immediately, sometimes in due time, always largely dependent on our faith .

If left on my own, there would have been a waterlogged corpse for dad to haul back home to mom on this particular summer day. I had been in big trouble. If not for divine intervention keeping me safe, he would have been in big trouble with mom. I believe that not only was my terror-inspired prayer was answered but at the same time the constant daily prayers offered by my good parents.
No one at the pond had missed me but I know that I was not alone under the water.

A year or two after my pond experience

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