I hope this note finds you well.
Early summer in Augusta, Arkansas meant it was time to go swimming.
Being raised in and near Augusta gave all of us a different view on life. Augusta sits on a small bluff above the White River and eight miles to the east is the Cache River. Some of its most important and prominent features are lakes, ponds, bays and sloughs.
Names like the River, Horseshoe Lake, Taylor Bay, Little Green Tom Slough, Goose Pond Slough, the Bar Ditch, Blue Hole and the Little Bay were an important part of my young life. Whether we were fishing, swimming or just sitting on the bank and dreaming, few days went by that water didn’t play a role in our recreation. I can remember as a young child feeling sorry for the kids who lived in McCrory because they didn’t live close enough to Taylor Bay to go swimming every day.
Growing up on a rice farm, we always had the fallback of swimming in the pump pond where the freezing cold water was drawn up from 110 feet down in the ground. The pumps on our farm produced about 1800-2000 gallons a minute. The torrent that gushed out of the twelve-inch pipe would knock you down if you stood too close. But, after it hit the pool, it created a circular flow. Despite the cold, we would jump in and try our hand at swimming upstream.
As small children, we were warned against swimming in the main part of the river. The currents were treacherous and even for a good strong swimmer could be dangerous. Luckily for us, in the distant past the river had changed its course and left Taylor Bay. Taylor Bay was five miles long, and because it connected at its south end to the main channel of the river, the water was always fresh. Taylor Bay became the principal source of entertainment for the kids of western Woodruff County. During my childhood the city fathers of Augusta created an easily accessible beach, free from currents and roped off so the fishing and ski boats had to stay some distance. Out in the deep water they built a tower for diving. About a mile up the bay, the wealthier members of the community built a clubhouse that in that day served as a country club. I was always lucky to have one or more friends whose family belonged to the Outing Club. The Outing Club was a large one-story building built up on eight-foot stilts. Around the central room of the building was a large screened in porch. I spent many summer evenings with my friends on that porch. In the summer of 1960, the theme to the movie A Summer Place by the Letterman provided a wonderful backdrop for me to fall in love, over and over again.
Looking back on that time, it is delightful to think about how protected and safe we were.
Have a nice journey,
Dr. Sam Taggart is a retired doctor/ writer/ marathon runner in practice in Benton for the last 35 years. He recently published The Public’s Health: A narrative history of health and disease in Arkansas, published by the Arkansas Times. His two other books, With a Heavy Heart and We All Hear Voices are available at your local booksellers or online at Amazon.com.