Spending the summer months like any other 12-year-old kid in

August 14, 2013 10:31 am
just can’t help being a 12-year-old kid in the summer, hanging out at the Wallowa County fair, getting ice cream from one of the county’s drive-ins or taking swim breaks at one of the county’s swimming holes.

When I was growing up in Lakeview, the mornings were occupied with sewing projects, chores or odd jobs I picked up around the neighborhood. 

The afternoons were spent at the pool — the epicenter of kid summer, at least when the fair wasn’t in session.

After lunch, my friends and my brother would ride our bikes up to the pool to spend the afternoon porpoising around the geo-thermally heated pool at the mouth of Bullard Canyon. 

Kids would line up down the street waiting to get to Nirvana around 1 p.m and burst into the inviting waters.

After the pool, we would ride down the hill to the Polar Bear for a 25 cent twist cone and a blue raspberry Blow Pop. Sugared up, Mom could usually get some more chores out of me before I came off my high.

Wallowa County doesn’t have a public pool, which at first glance is tough, especially for kids who can’t drive...but I am a kid who can drive and early on in my time here, I was lucky enough to live by a river.

One day, shortly after moving to Minam, I reflected that while my friends were surfing and carousing during our college summers, I smelled like smoke and often had to reinspect the backs of my elbows to make sure I’d gotten all of the soot off after a day of mopping up prescribed burns or running around doing initial attack from a wildland fire engine. 

Those days were sublime in their own way; spending the days in the woods, watching Air Force jets fly overhead and spying wildlife. Sublime as they were, it wasn’t like a day at the beach, but running a small fishing inn was.

In my mid-life, I found a position as a motel manager where the August temperatures could reach 100. As I did laps up and down — cleaning rooms and changing the laundry — I would periodically lie in the river to cool off. 

The dogs thought they were in kid Nirvana — swapping dips in the river with naps in the shade only to be interrupted to greet guests and drop soggy tennis balls in the laps of unsuspecting, would-be ball throwers.

For the past four years, I’ve had a “straight” job writing for The Observer, but I still find times after work to run up to Wallowa Lake or down to the Minam Park swimming hole for some time with the dogs. 

Part of the Xterra inventory this time of year is a ball chucker, tennis balls, towels, bathing suits, a leash and plenty of poop bags.

Sometimes, as prepared as I am, things happen...

A couple years ago, I was scheduled to cover Sen. Jeff Merkley’s visit to Wallowa on a Sunday so I stopped off for a swim beforehand. 

The brown dog loves to swim, but preferably in
pursuit of a green fuzzy
tennis ball. 

The red dog likes to cool off, but doesn’t usually swim much, unless properly motivated. 

As is oft the case, I blinked and the Red Menace was across the river and running up Smith Mountain before I had time to say Jack Robinson.

I swam the river, crawled up the rocky slope and through the barbed wire to the railroad tracks, screaming like a banshee for the Deer Chaser to return. 

I wondered, as I scoured the hillside for a sign of her, whether I should go cover the senator and leave her to her own devices?

As fate would have it, the scamp returned to the tracks and I dragged her back down over the rocks and swam with her across the river with her collar tightly grasped in my hand. 

We made it in plenty of time for the town hall, if a little scraped up and bruised, like any typical 12-year-old kid.