Whether it was going to Parksville Lake, Chilhowee or to float down either the Ocoee or Hiwassee rivers, there were several ways to beat the soaring temperatures and enjoy time with family and friends.
Long before anyone thought of charging people to ride the rapids, we were facing “Grumpy,” “Broken Nose,” “Tablesaw” and “Hell Hole” in old black tire tubes, canoes and kayaks without benefit of a “guide.”
We’d also go up on the mountain and float the Hiwassee. It was a more leisurely ride than the Ocoee but my cousin Kevin asked me one time what the “sweet smell” we often encountered was. Noticing the gentlemen on the banks with rifles in hand, I told him just to keep paddling in the middle of the river and don’t go near the edge.
When I was just a youngster, my older brothers Daryl (D.G.) and Jerry bought an old school bus that had been converted into a camper with a small kitchen, couches and beds.
During the summer they’d drive it to Greasy Creek, find a good place to park it and “camp out” all summer long, driving back to Cleveland during the week to work each day but spending the evenings and nights at the campsite.
While it is still a very popular place to swim, long before the Olympics discovered “Blue Hole,” it was an exciting swimming hole with underwater passages that you could swim through.
One of the best around at that was Anthony Fiveash. He could hold his breath longer than anybody I knew, often scaring us because he’d stay under the water so long.
Our family often went swimming at Parksville’s Mac Point or First Beach, but when I got old enough to drive I found a place I liked even better.
Chilhowee was a great place to take a date or look for one. A great beach, cool mountain lake and nice picnic area in a beautiful setting made it just right for a whole group or just a couple. A nice walk to Benton Falls, especially when the leaves had changed colors in the fall, was always a good way to make a favorable impression on a girlfriend.
My son Kevin (yes, named after my favorite cousin) enjoys Chilhowee these days, going camping up there as often as he can.
My daughter Faith also enjoys the Polk County river areas. She often goes swimming (or playing in the water) at “Blue Hole” or floating down the lower Ocoee.
As a kid, I’d often go with family and put in just below the Parksville Dam and ride to the U.S. 64 bridge. One time we did an all-day float all the way to Charleston.
A couple of Saturday’s ago, Faith and her friend Haley Guptill, one of my “other daughters,” met me at the Ocoee Dam Deli for lunch before they went to float a little while.
Putting in at the dam, the two 16-year-olds were enjoying the ride when a strong, sudden summer storm blew up. Being swept past the takeouts, the pair made their way to a little island to wait out the storm. When it passed, they had to swim to the river’s edge and climb up a step, overgrown embankment.
While trying to get out Faith slipped and fell about eight feet, landing on her left shoulder. After the pair finally made it up the steep incline and across the big open field (with Haley being barefoot), they were able to get back to the car and drive home.
Haley called to tell me what happened and that Faith had hurt her arm. Although she wasn’t in any real pain from the fall and didn’t think she needed to, after Haley’s mom checked out the arm, they called me back and it was decided she needed to go to hospital.
With the arm numb, we made the three-hour wait in the emergency room waiting area before being called back. After X-rays and a neck scan determined nothing was broken, the fact that she couldn’t move her arm was determined to be compressed nerves in the shoulder.
After getting a tetanus shot and being told to take some Tylenol, we left the ER around midnight. Although she wasn’t in any pain she still couldn’t move her arm, but that didn’t prevent her from wanting to go spend the night with her four friends, who had spent the evening with us at the hospital.
Since she still couldn’t move her arm Monday morning, we followed up with our favorite medical care professional, Kevin Chin, who put her on a steroid pack (there goes her professional sports career) and set up physical therapy.
Having an arm in a sling didn’t slow her down as she and Zoe Heaton tie-dyed it and she didn’t miss a day of work at Taco Bell.
She finished her physical therapy Friday and all is well — except she’s been doing her swimming over at Meigs County lately for some reason.
While there is some inherent danger in river and outdoor activities, there is also a lot of fun to be had.
Watching my children enjoying some of the same things I did as a kid reminds me of why this is a great place to raise a family.
With all the beautiful mountains, rivers and lakes the Lord blessed our area with, why would you want to live anywhere else?
As Dorothy said in “The Wizard of Oz”: “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”