Down By The Old Mill Pond
Sixth grade was pretty exciting for me. It was the grade where my teacher acknowledged my writing skills to the whole class and to the PTA. She read one of my stories to them and I got a reward. You would think that after having such a good experience in school that I would have had sense enough to leave well enough alone. But no, I had to push my luck.
My best friend, Bob, asked me one day just before school let out if I wanted to skip school the following day and go to the “mill pond.” That was a place near the school that reportedly had quick sand holes, swampy-type water filled areas and was said to be very dangerous. I of course gave it serious consideration (which lasted about 2 seconds) and said “yes.” Did I mention that the next day was a school day and to go to the mill pond meant that we would be skipping school? Well it was and we did.
8:00 A.M. and we met just across the street from the school. Excitement ran high as we were going on an adventure and I was skipping school for the very first time ever. I trusted my friend and he lead me into the swamp and all that it offered. He said “I think we should catch a turtle and take it back to school to show everyone.” How could I disagree with that? Of course we should and we did. But, it wasn’t just any old turtle it was a huge snapping turtle that could have snapped off an arm if it had chosen to do so. As it turned out it was quite docile and as we placed it into a box that we’d found it just laid there pretending to be asleep with its head tucked into its shell.
After our big capture it was off to the school yard just in time for afternoon lunch break. All of the kids gathered round as we displayed our trophy. It was pretty exciting and we were praised as the great white hunters of our time.
And then my father, who was at that time a local police officer, arrived in his jeep, got out, grabbed me by the shirt and spanked my stupid butt right in front of all my adoring fans. They laughed. I cried. My best friend Bob, after seeing dad’s arrival, took flight and it was days before I could confront him about his cowardly action. He knew that my father would likely have given him ‘what for’ right along with me. And nobody would have done anything about it. Many times you could get into trouble in your neighborhood and the neighbor would spank you and then kindly escort you home so you could be “properly” punished by your parents. If you’ve ever heard the words “just wait until your father gets home” you know what I mean. We all knew it could happen but of course were willing to take the chance at one time or another. It wasn’t that we didn’t respect our elders as we were taught it was that our little boy curiosity sometimes got the best of us and it took over offering us excitement that we simply couldn’t ignore.
Today the mill pond has been filled in and on top of it and its quick sand holes there is a new extension to the high school. I don’t know how they ever filled in the holes but the building seems to be holding up quite well. It offers higher learning to all who will faithfully attend.
After the school yard whipping, the school skipping and learning that friends sometimes abandon you I believe I’ve done well in my life. My kids made some mistakes along the way just as I did. And that was fine with me. We have memories to talk about when we gather at the Thanksgiving table, while sitting around the Christmas tree or on a walk in the park. I share with them lessons I’ve learned like “don’t skip school” etc. and they laugh, look with wonder at the sparkle in my eye as I tell them the story for the one hundredth time and know that I only share this insider information so they can in turn share it with future generations yet to come.
So where are the pearls in this story? I guess it would have to be that you can make mistakes in life but they don’t have to hold you back. Mistakes are simply a learning tool used by you and God to enhance your future. To ignore them would simply not be right. Don’t lose the wonder of exploring in your life. Always seek to learn something new every day. Then you’ll be able to share them with others and your light will continue to shine even when you’re gone.
In closing I must say that no turtles were hurt during the telling of this story. And, my friend Bob was also not hurt… at least not until my father called his father. But that is another story best told by him.