About 100 or more yards from the barn was a pond. This pond was both a temptation and a necessity on an old farm where the wells were shallow and water for horses and cattle was always needed. It was a temptation because there was a deep end fed by a small spring and a shallow end about up to a young boy’s waist. Mom and dad forbid me to go into the pond—it was too far away from the house if something went wrong. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t walk around the pond and try to catch frogs and turtles and snakes and whatever rose to the top. That pond was the object of many adventures in my childhood, some resulting in life-long, unforgettable lessons.
One day the grandson of Mr. Folk next door came over and introduced himself. Johnny was a couple of years older than me, but he saw me out by the pond and wanted to know what was going on. As I showed him how I caught frogs and looked for turtles, he got this idea that we could stand in the shallow end and use a net to catch turtles. I told him I wasn’t allowed in the pond, and like a Little Rascals script, he talked me into it. So we were out bobbing around in the shallow end looking for turtles when my mom saw our heads just above the water. Mom screamed my name, and I knew I was in deep trouble. And Johnny high-tailed it back to his grandpa’s ‘cause he didn’t want any part of what was coming.
Now the pond at this time of summer was pretty low in water, but equally deep in mud. And once my barn boots filled up with water and got stuck in the mud, I fell in. So what was the use in trying to stay out of the water at that point? By the time I got back to the house where my mother was, the mud had dried a good deal. There was mud in my ears. There was mud in my eyebrows. There was mud in my eyelashes. There was mud in every crack and orifice of my body. My jeans were encrusted with it. My white T-shirt looked like it was Army issued. I couldn’t tell if my mom was so furious because I had disobeyed the family rule or, being the clean freak she was, because she couldn’t see her son through the mud. I knew one thing, though, I was about to find out.
She made me strip down naked right there in the yard and used the milk house hose to pressure wash me. She didn’t say a whole lot except she repeated over and over again, “What a mess. What a terrible mess.” So I thought I was going to get off easy, except for the cold sting of the spring-fed well water from the milk house. It was a fleeting thought because when she got done hosing me down, she had me wait for her to go in the house and get a towel. But it wasn’t just a towel she brought back. One of my Dad’s old belts was in her right hand and I got the biggest whooping of my life. I learned that day that my mom loved me with a Proverbs 13:24 love: “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” That was the only time I ever went swimming in the pond. And I sure learned the meaning of “don’t do that.”