My recent post had to do with foolish stunts I had done in my life. A loyal follower had related me to a cat with nine lives. That jogged my memory to think of other near death experiences I've had. I totally forgot about my adventures with water.
A favorite Winter past time for the gang I hung around with as a grade-schooler was to walk in Yellow Creek Park in Struthers, Ohio all the way out to Hamilton Lake. The creek itself was usually frozen and we would sometimes wear our Ice Skates and be able to skate most of the way to the lake. I had visions of Hans Christian Andersen and the story of The Silver Skates. Unfortunately, this was Ohio and not Holland. Winters weren't as cold or sustained and the freezing of the creek wasn't consistent. Run-off from salt-covered streets turned the ice into mush in some parts of Yellow Creek.
We had great fun in gliding over these weak spots and watching the ice crack beneath out feet. If you happened to break through the ice, it was usually very shallow and the worst that would happen was getting a wet foot. As luck would have it, I broke through the ice near a small dam and was in water over my head. I was close enough to the edge of the creek to reach it with a couple of dog paddles and grab some overhanging tree branches to pull myself out. I'm sure if a friend had attempted to help me, he would have encountered the same fate. I was of course, soaked to the bone and had to struggle to walk up a steep incline over a mile to get home. Thankfully no one was at home and I was able to slip into a hot shower and hide my wet clothes until they dried. I'm sure my days exploring the creek would have been over if my parents learned of my mishap.
In the Summer, my family often went to a relative's cottage in Sandusky, on Lake Erie. My cousin, a couple of years older than me, was my constant companion as we spent a good part of the day in the water. I was probably eight years old and could swim well enough in a pool, but I was no match for a rough Lake Erie. One lazy afternoon, we were on blow-up plastic rafts just sunning ourselves and riding the rolling waves. I was practically asleep when I slipped off the raft and found myself well beyond the pier that went about fifty yards out into the water. The raft had drifted too far away from me and I began to panic, knowing I couldn't swim that far to shore. I hollered to my cousin and he came to my aid and helped me towards shallow water. Clearly, he saved me from drowning. We never told anyone for fear of being banned from the water.
Rose Lake, a long-closed Swimming Hole off Kirk Road in Youngstown was the site of my next calamity. Another cousin and I with whom I spent weeks with every Summer, went to Rose Lake once or twice a week to swim. I marveled at the kids that could swim across the small lake and finally mustered up the courage to try it. Needless to say, I didn't make it. About three-fourths of the way, I became too tired to swim any further and became disoriented as I struggled with each stroke. A large metal pole that was used as a marker, vertically jutted out of the water in still deep water. I clung to the pole and began calling for help. The next thing I remembered was water pouring out of my mouth as a Life Guard did compressions on my back. Still groggy from my ordeal, the owner of the lake gave us a ride home and told my Aunt and Uncle what had happened. I can only remember them scolding my cousin for not keeping a better eye on me. The poor kid, I was the one who attempted the dumb stunt.
Several hours later, I was feeling better and was sitting on my cousin's front porch. A few of his friends came by and asked if I'd like to play a game called "Pass-Out". I asked how to play and they said stand up and they would show me. I was told to lean over and take ten very deep breathes, then stand up and hold that last breath as long as I could while another kid would Bear-Hug me from behind, making you pass out. I was gullible and went along with it, doing as I was instructed. I was squeezed and sure enough, I passed out cold. I can remember a sound while I was unconscious like a herd of Buffaloes running over the top of me. I slowly came to my senses to the sound of laughter from all the kids who witnessed the event. I later learned that this "Game" had deadly consequences. Apparently, several kids had died or suffered brain injuries from lack of oxygen or hitting their heads when they passed out. As if I didn't have enough To deal with that day.
I think God has spared me on all of these occasions so I could become the Poster Boy for all those things kids should never attempt. My ignorance got me in plenty of trouble. By sheer luck or the grace of God, I'm still here. My destiny is yet to be determined.