When I was a small girl I spent a few years of my life with my grandmother and two older brothers in a town with a population of 150 people. Bridgeboro, Georgia lies just south of the city of Albany and in the 1950's was known only for its production of peanuts.
There was little for children to do in such a small place. Churches provided the only social settings and fishing was the popular recreation of the day. My brother Jim, who was 4 years my senior, and I would spend many days just down the road at Culpepper's Pond. For hours, we sat at the back end of a cane pole and fished with live worms.
Culpepper's Pond was on private land, but Old Man Culpepper, as he was fondly called, allowed anyone and everyone to fish there who cared to. It was a rather large body of water with lots of greenery and lily pads and frogs jumping about. A very pleasant place to be on a sunny afternoon.
Jim was somewhat of a meanie. He loved to play pranks on me and was always teasing me in some manner or another, although I still thought the sun rose and set with him. I guess I realized even at the young age of 5 that he was slightly jealous of me for taking his place of being the baby of the family.
I lived for the days when he would take me fishing. Culpepper's Pond was loaded with bream, and often times we came home with enough of this tasty fish for Granny to fry up for supper. I learned to bait my own hook with squirmy worms and became quite the little fisher girl. Sometimes I even caught more fish than Jim.
On one particularly hot and sunny afternoon, my brother decided we should go swimming. Now, I was afraid of water and had never been in any deeper than a bathtub. I watched with fear as my brother jumped into the deep end of the pond and started swimming and splashing around. My brother had done this before and knew how to swim. I did not.
“Come on, jump in! You can swim!” Jim said, knowing good and well I could not.
“No! I can't swim! I'm not going to. Come out of that water before you drown!”
Jim kept teasing me and daring me to jump in, and I just sat fishing and trying to ignore his taunts. He finally swam to shore, got out of the water and started fishing again. I was happy he had stopped laughing at me and seemed to settle down for some serious fishing.
I got a nibble on my line and stood up to jerk the pole when all of a sudden I felt my whole body being thrust into the water. My dear brother had plucked me up and thrown me off the edge of the pond.
The next thing I knew I was completely underwater and eyeball to eyeball with a fish! I struggled to catch my breath and instead came up with a lung full of water. I remember feeling like it was the end for me. Somehow, naturally, I started swimming up to the top of the water, gasping for air. With my head above water, my arms began to flail and suddenly I was dog paddling.
I could see my brother standing on the side of the pond laughing at me. Here I was dying, and all Jim could do was laugh. I was so mad, but at the same time I was swimming!
“I'm t-telling G-Granny on you, Jim! H-help me get outta here!” I sputtered between coughs.
My brother jumped in, and I jumped on his back, and he swam us to the shallow end of the pond. He was still giggling when I landed on the grass.
“See. I told you you could swim.” Jim teased.
Well, the next time Jim and I went fishing I jumped in the water myself, and learned the proper way to dog paddle and swim. This time, my brother was right by my side, and taught me how to hold my breath underwater and how to come up for air. I never told on him, either.
So many times in life when I thought I was the very end of my wits, I have somehow always instinctively known how to survive. God gave me the ability to do so, just as he did that day at Culpepper's Pond.
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