Archived Story

Dog days and wash holes

Published 3:19pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The hot and humid dog days of summer leave a lot to be desired by those of us who are accustomed to spending our days and nights in an air conditioned room or sitting in a shade with a glass of iced tea.

It hasn’t always been that way, however.

The odds are a country boy in the 1940s had no air conditioner or ceiling fan and a piece of ice in a glass of tea was a luxury.

Furthermore, he looked forward to the hot and humid dog days of summer because it meant he and his companions would be free to spend more time playing in their wash holes.

My brothers and I had two wash holes. The one we used the most was on a branch in our pasture, about 75 yards from the back door. Every spring we’d tackle that stream with pick and shovel bound and determined to build a dam and create a pond that would withstand the rush of run-off water from a summer rainstorm.

For maybe 30 minutes of each hour’s dinner break from fieldwork, the four of us would dig clay from a bank below the dam and dump it—a bucket at a time—into the steam. This would continue for several days and, barring an unexpected summer rainstorm, we’d finally reach our objective of completing a 2-foot wide, 4-foot high, 20-foot long dam.

Beat to a pulp, we’d stand back and admire our workmanship and watch the water move backwards, ever so slowly getting deeper and deeper.

The high water mark was about three and one-half feet. We had to begin releasing the water at that point to prevent it from backing up in the spring 50 yards upstream, which served as our source of potable water.

The pond was a great wash hole even though it wasn’t deep enough to accommodate diving.

Every day after dinner, we’d run down the hill and jump in to cool off. Occasionally, we’d get a long break and spend two or three hours playing in the pond. It also served as our bathtub on Saturday’s when it was time to take a bath for Sunday church.

Our favorite wash hole was in a long stretch of eddy water in the shoals of Fox Creek. We were handicapped in the use of it, however, since it was a mile and half away by road and a mile away through the woods. Still, it was a great place to be on a long dog day when the temperature was in the three-digit range.

Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.

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