Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My First Lesson

Front to back: George, Me, Chris, Jerry, Dad and Blair.
Look closely. Can you pick out the intrepid swimmer?

I had never taken swimming lessons.
We simply lived too far from the city for it to be a priority. Or even possible.
But I loved to swim.
And, with the river is such close proximity, did it a lot.
In the summer.
In winter, for obvious reasons, we were pretty much shut out.
Then, someone of great intelligence came up with a fantastic idea.
Why not hire a schoolbus and cart a load of kids to Lethbridge once a week?
It was genius!
Why hadn't anyone though of it before?
Now I could take lessons and my parents would only be responsible for getting me to and from Milk River.
Okay, it still meant a twenty-mile hike into town to drop me off and another twenty miles to pick me up, but why haggle over details?
I was going!
The bus ride was a treat. For one thing, I was suddenly riding with a different group of kids than I ever saw from the fourth seat back.
And for another, Kathy had a portable record-player, which she kept going the entire 50 miles.
I can't tell you how many times we heard 'Wipe-Out', but it was . . . umm . . . a few.
The bus deposited us safely in front of the Civic Center.
I should mention here that I've often wondered about bus drivers. What they do in their off hours, when they aren't closely closeted with a rowdy group of young people.
It's a wonder that more of them don't drink.
Can't you just picture a group of them around a table with shaking heads and “Let me tell you . . .!” stories?
But I digress . . .
We scrambled madly for the door and the change rooms, then poured out into the main pool room.
We were ready.
The teachers began to sort us into groups, using a highly accurate scheme.
How old are you? Are you afraid of the water? Have you ever taken swimming lessons before? What colour is your swimsuit.
Do you like boys?
Finally, they had us, more or less, categorized.
I had never taken swimming lessons, so I was inserted into the beginners class.
That was a treat.
“Okay, see if you can put your face into the water.”
Compliance.
“Okay. You! Little girl in the blue swimsuit!” Sigh. “Would someone please fish her out?”
Have I mentioned that I like water?
“Are you sure you've never had lessons?”
Head shake.
“Well, I'm moving you up to the next level.”
Okay.
And so it went.
By the time we were finished our one-hour lesson, I had been . . . promoted . . . seven times.
It must have been some sort of record, to go from the beginner level to the 'Junior Lifeguard' level.
In one lesson.
Who could have known that all my flailing and thrashing around like a demented fish had actually been getting me somewhere.
Or that, in the still water of a pool, with no current to fight, I could actually make headway.
Really fast headway.
Jerry (the only member of my family who could actually fight the river's current and win), eat your heart out.
Because miracles do happen.
I was suddenly the soggy and triumphant queen of my little, watery world.
It didn't happen often.
But it was a very good feeling.

6 comments:

  1. We swam against the current of our river, it made doing laps at the pool a piece of cake!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bless This Mess:
    It's so true!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great story. I love being around the water too. Never had a river to swim in thru:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you, Adventurer! Don't feel too bad about it, the not having a river, it gets sand in your suit!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Diane,
    You are marvelous! I love your posts. Your stories are so believable and fun-loving! What a gift you have!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Swimming against a current is a sure fire way to increase your stamina. At least your siblings didn't swim like Ethan Hawke in Gattaca! Playing 'Chicken' is just plain crazy.

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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