As the summer draws to an end and a new school year arises, I can’t help but think about my childhood and how badly I want to go back in time. You see my parents were everything to me, just like they are today, and the summers from 20-something years ago were ones that I will never forget.
My dad made extra income hauling canoes for a local canoeing outfitter. He would haul the canoes under a wooden bridge that I just knew would collapse on any given day. Somehow, it’s still standing today and every time I cross that bridge, I swear it brings me right back to those days and the eerie noises of rusty screws and rotting boards desperate for reinforcements
I like to imagine seeing my dad amongst all the discolored canoes when passing over Carpenters Bridge. He probably would be in some sort of 80’s fashion, which might include a ragged torn muscle top and faded short shorts. My mom and I would always greet him – even on cloudy days. Being from a small country town, hanging out at the sand banks is just what you did.
I would normally make a fuss as my dad would make one extra squeeze on the clasp of the life jacket, right before I jumped off an old log sticking out of the muddy waters. I was so embarrassed wearing those big, faded orange colored life jackets; most of the time, the older high school kids would be hanging out a few feet down stream. Now as I am raising my own little soul, I understand my dad’s though process back in those days (even though I don’t even bring my son to the creek).
Over the years, canoeing grew into our own summer trips down Whiskey Chitto River, (also known as Ouiska Chitto River, which means tall cane). It’s some of my fondest memories of my time spent growing up outdoors. My earliest recollection is from a summer of the late 80’s, when my large Catholic family had a crew paddling down the creek. I was in elementary school and I remember laughing and sharing cold soggy sandwiches with my cousins as their parents named their canoe “The Lunch Boat”. At that time a popular TV series hit the air called, “The Love Boat”. You see, their canoe was loaded with so many ice chests it was sure to sink the entire canoe at any given moment and as the cold brewskis where being passed around, the funnier “The Lunch Boat” was. At the end of that canoeing trip, I was blissfully exhausted! In my head, I could still hear the sounds of the paddles slapping against the current. I fell asleep that night, laughing over the vision of my mom’s paddle swooping down on my dad’s head! I don’t think I moved a muscle all night long.
When I was a senior in high school, we took our senior trip down the same cold, muddy river. But, by the time adulthood fully kicked in, those became lifelong memories that I share with my forever friends today. These days, I rarely return to the Whiskey Chitto, with the exception of those occasional journeys along my favorite back roads with dear old friends (like the person who snapped these pictures).
Still, I love the thinking of all those times I shared with the creek and canoeing with the ones I love. Forevermore, the Whiskey Chitto will remind me of my parents, my friends, and most importantly, my childhood.
Once there, I breathe in the memories from the past while still keeping new ones at hand. After all, it’s what draws summer to an end. Here are my top ten playlist songs for a summer transition between the warm drawl of summer and the transition of a new school year for a boost of confidence of ending the summer vibes.
- Cruel Summer – Bananarama
- Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
- Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles
- All Summer Long – Kid Rock
- Hot Fun In The Summertime – Sly/Family
- America – I Need You
- Summertime – NKOTB
- Summer In The City – Lovin Spoonful
- Riders Of The Storm – The Doors
- Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton