Mud

Mothers wish that mud had never been invented. But that’s an argument that will have to be taken up with a Higher Authority. The fact that I discovered mud when I was young and played in it often cannot be held against me. I didn’t make it. It was just there.

“Now, don’t you go and get those pants all muddy!”

“Yes Ma’am.”, knowing full well that I was in trouble before I even walked out the door. Somewhere, at no fault of my doing, mud was just going to find me and jump up all over my good pants.

The greatest freedom was to be given the freedom to play in the mud. Mud pies. Mud puddles. No kid who grew up on an asphalt driveway understands this. Then, there was what we called frog houses, which was mud packed up over your foot. Shape it just right. Pull your foot out slowly. And there you have it, a frog condo of sorts.

Creeks had mud. The grey kind that you can pack into a feed sack and use to dam up the water to make a swimming hole. We stacked them waist high. Today that sounds like work. Back then it was a way to pass a lazy summer day.

The most mud I ever saw was when Glenn Mitchell drained down his lake to seine it and have a fish fry. There’s nothing like pond mud. If mud was rated, pond mud would top the charts. If the desert had any farm ponds, the ancient tribes would have preferred it for their adobe homes.

As a member of local BSA Troop 60, a few of us got called in to manage the last few hours of the drain down. It was clear that the lake would be at the right level some time during the night, and they wanted some very responsible young men there to shut off the valve at the right moment.

“See that post out there in the water?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When the water’s edge gets to the bottom of that post, one of you climb up the ladder on the stand pipe and close that valve. Can you do that?”

Five young teenage boys and about a million acres of mud. What could possibly go wrong? Sometime around midnight the campfire got boring and the mud started looking pretty appealing. The “I Dare You” game was on.

In our plan, we had figured that we could wash up from the overflow pipe on the back side of the dam. What we failed to calculate was that once we shut the valve off, there would be no more water coming out of the pipe. I was never good at physics.

The idea of crawling into our sleeping bags covered in mud was bothersome. Plan B. Get to another lake. Joel Floyd was the only one old enough to have a car. A 66’ Ford Fairlane.

“You drive,” he said. I wasn’t going to argue.

I pushed through the briers down to the creek and washed off the worst of it. I was 14. We opened up the trunk lid. Four nearly naked boys with white eyeballs and teeth crawled in.

We eased out the dirt road and made it to the black top. Two miles down we pulled off on the shoulder, jumped the fence and ran into the night toward Jim Henderson’s lake. I’ve always thought I should have written a rock ballad about this.

The moral of the story? If you play in mud, always have a plan B. And tell your mother that you had nothing to do with it.

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