CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The full-color photograph of the Elk River on the front page of the Jan. 19 Washington Post business section brought back memories of those years in the second half of the 1950s when my mother and I lived not more than a stone's throw and four houses from the banks of the Elk on Viking Road in Elk Hills.
I was in high school at Charleston Catholic; and the long, warm, humid, summer days beckoned me and my cousin Larry Brown into adventures that, while memorable, were not always the most wise.
Take for example the hot summer day when we swam across the Elk River. There was a small, secluded, sandy beach formed where a stream meandered down from the holler across "the hard road" (the paved U.S. 119/W.Va. 4, as opposed to a packed-dirt Viking Road), ran past the back of our property and was devoured by the swiftly flowing Elk.
Larry and I had gone to the little beach to relax and get some sun. The river was calmly flowing by, small whirlpools and eddies creating intriguing but ephemeral designs on the surface of the water. Cool and calm, the river whispered to us, inviting us to join him and experience his cooling and refreshing waters.
"Come," he seemed to beckon. "Swim and luxuriate in my waters and let my current massage and relax you."
Larry and I talked a bit, trying to gauge how far it was to the other side. Our youthful ignorance and bravado told us it wasn't that far ... we could make it.
So off came my shoes, T-shirt and Levis. Larry likewise disrobed. Standing at water's edge, buck-naked, we both hesitated ... then, together, plunged into the cold, swiftly moving water.
I remember the current was moving faster than it had looked and was pulling us downstream. There was also an unanticipated nasty undertow attempting to pull us under. Continuous course correction and more vigorous swimming were in order.
Really, I think we did quite well at first, considering that neither of us was athletically inclined. However, about two-thirds of the way across, both of us were beginning to tire, and we were beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of our attempt to prove our machismo.