Building Sand Castles
by Norris Chambers
Our beach was not a beach with rolling waves and squawking gulls, or long, wide expanses of clean, white sand. But we did have sand.
Our "beach" was simply called "BRANCH." if it had another name, we never knew it. It was a wet weather stream about ten to twenty feet wide, and about four to six feet deep. It drained rainwater from the sandy farm lands west of us to a larger creek a few miles to the east. This was not the rough and almost inaccesible area where I lived, but the flatter and more populated area where Clifton lived. We didn't spend all of our childhood at our place. Much of the time I was at his house, which he shared with his parents and five brothers, ranging in age from just below Clifton to a baby in diapers. About seven or eight miles separated our homesteads.
This branch was dry most of the time, but after a rainy spell, a small stream ran for several days. We played up and down this little branch for two or three miles from daylight until dark. Each brother took care of the one just younger while their mother worked. Sometimes we came back by the house around noon and found something to eat. On other days we took a lunch with us, supplementing it with roasted birds, rabbits or fried crawfish tails. We didn't know that you could eat the whole crawfish, and we spent considerable time peeling the tails and frying them over an open fire. Occasionally we found some fish that had migrated up the branch during a heavy runoff.
But this story is about our greatest engineering achievement. A few days after a heavy rain, we were playing on the sandy bottom, throwing sand in front of the small, gurgling stream that made its way down the middle of the sandy stream bed. When an accumulation of sand stopped the flow of the water, it began to back up and form a pool. In a matter of minutes, we were all wet and sloshing around in the water. To keep our pool useable and to make it deeper, we continuted to pile sand on our dam. Two younger brothers went to the house and brought back a wheel barrow and a couple of shovels.
The construction project began in earnest as we hauled sand and threw it on our resevoir's dam. From bank to bank, it was probably twenty five feet long. The water didn't rise as quickly as it moved farther upstream. We had plenty of time to add to the height and thickness of the dam. All day we worked steadily at the job, taking time out occasionally to go swimming. Before nightfall, it became too deep for the younger boys to use. We discussed a fill of sand by the dam to make it shallow enough for the small ones, who did considerable howling when they were denied access to the pool.
When we called it a day, we had a nice sand dune about five feet high and water backed up as far as we could see. Since we had about two feet to spare, we figured it wouldn't run over the top during the night. Our plans were to come back the next day and do something about a spillway.
The next morning when we went back to the branch to continue our dam building we were disappointed to see that it had apparently run over the top and was washed away completely. We busied ourselves with other things and forgot about it for the day.
That night we heard a strange tale. Jess Adams, an old fellow who lived south of us about a half mile was coming home after dark the night before and had been involved in a peculiar accident. Between the little town of Cross Cut and his house was a steep dip across the same branch we played in. People liked to hit the concrete dip at a pretty lively speed and get the roller-coster effect when the car went swiftly down and up. Evidently Jesse did the same thing.
What he didn't know, and what we hadn't thought of, was that there was about two feet of water over the dip. When he hit it, the splash was so great that it blinded him and when he came out he missed the road and went through a fence in into old man Byron's cow lot. The milk cows escaped and invaded the garden area just north of the house. Jesse was knocked out cold but wasn't seriously injured.
Everyone said that he was just drunk and passed out on the road. They didn't believe the water tale because the branch hadn't been over the dip in two or three days. We talked about it a little in private and wondered if we should tell folks what really happened and that Jesse wasn't imagining the water.
Do you think we should have told?
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