Written by Jared Beck
Growing up filthy rich definitely had its advantages. My family lived on a ranch that literally had a mote.
We had an apple orchard, cherry orchard, apricot trees, plum trees, and two large vegetable gardens. There were barns, various equipment, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and dogs. But the single most important recreational area, just outside our baseball/kickball diamond, was our swimming pool. Our family of 11, along with several cousins and friends, required quite a large swimming pool with a constant feed of new running water. We had a diving platform, a grassy bank to lay on which went right up to the water’s edge, and just the right amount of sun and shade from the large poplar trees. The constant flow of water made the pool self-cleaning. Sticks, leaves, grass, etc. would simply wash through so they were never a problem.
We swam so much, I’m surprised that we didn’t grow gill slits in our necks. My brothers and sisters and I would work hard moving irrigation pipe, taking care of the animals, gardening, and doing yardwork, then we’d dive into the solar heated pool to play and forget about chores for a while. We had a few games that we would play, like throwing items in the deeper part then diving down to retrieve them, but the one game we played most was called, “Alligator.” To play Alligator, we needed at least two people, but we could play with as many as 20. The more people there were, the more fun it became. It was basically like playing tag in the water. One person would be “It” and they were the alligator. The object was to try to dive into the pool, swim to the other side, and get out without being attacked or caught by the alligator. There were boundaries. And if your face and head were submerged, when the alligator touched you then you were safe. A good Alligator would grab you and lift you out of the water, then you were “It” and he/she had one free trip back onto dry ground/ base. To bait the swimmers into diving in, the alligator would often drop under water. Sometimes, the alligator would pop right back up and catch the swimmers just as it was too late since you can’t un-dive in midair. It was fun to taunt the alligator. Someone would get far away, right at the edge of the boundary line and go into the water slowly. When the alligator would start to make his/her way to that swimmer, multiple other swimmers from both sides of the pool would dive, splash and swim across. Splashing the alligator in the face was perfectly legal and was actually fairly effective for defense. Splashing water in the alligator’s face would make them blink and choke on water while you darted to the side to make your escape.
To start a game of Alligator, everyone would race to the pool. The last person completely submerged in the water would be the alligator. I never remembered a game ending because of boredom. Once a game of Alligator started, it only ended because it had to end, like if it was time for a baseball game, evening chores, etc. I also can’t remember anyone ever saying, “Is there something to play besides alligator?” I think people knew they would be dunked ruthlessly for saying such a thing. We learned that the human body feels the need to come up for air well before you actually have to come up for air. Most of all, we learned that our irrigation canal made for a great swimming pool!
Every once in a while we would bite the bullet and go to the lake, or a public swimming pool. While swimming we would want to play our favorite Alligator game. The problem was, it just didn’t work anywhere but the canal. First of all, the water needed to be dark and murky in order to be able to sneak up on an unsuspecting swimmer. Secondly there needed to be an equal distance on either side of an area for ideal, fair play. If the distance was too far, then the game didn’t work because then it was about swimming rather than stealth attacks. If the water level was too shallow or too deep, it still didn’t work. Only our canal really made our Alligator game ideal. One other great attribute for having a canal for entertainment was if you dove into the canal at a bad angle and hit the bottom, you would come up with a muddy face, but no injuries, unlike hitting the side of a cement pool.
Although the part about being rich is absolutely a figment of my childhood imagination, we certainly felt like we grew up with abundance, living off the land for the most part, and creating our own kind of fun.
Who Knew An Irrigation Canal Could Provide So Much Entertainment?