Robert Hitt Neill column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brownspur Swimming hole spells heat relief

There used to be a radio or TV commercial that asked the question, “How do you spell ‘Relief’?”

I have forgotten the product or service being advertised, but for some reason I want to say that it dealt with what my doctor granddaddy would have listed as “Lower Tract Problems.”

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Whatever, it caught on, and Br’er Beau made it his password whenever he’d come to spell me with a tough job on the farm. He’d show up with a grin and the greeting, “How do you spell Relief?” and I’d willingly turn the job over to him.

That was usually a mechanical problem, and no one ever accused me of being mechanically minded, whereas Beau was pretty good at stuff like that, even carpentry, which eluded me too. My carpenter motto was, after the initial cut, “If it don’t fit, get a bigger hammer!”

At any rate, I was usually glad for my brother to come in and spell Relief. My son filled the niche of his college baseball team closer, or relief pitcher, and that was the team chant when he came to the mound with men on base to get the ball from the starting pitcher, who was generally real glad to see Adam come in.

As a left-hander, his pick-off move was so good that, if the opposing team had never seen him pitch, their runner on first was a sure out. Adam would warm up, the plate ump would cry, “Play ball!” and he’d pick the guy off first base.  Relief was his business back then.

Going on 30 years ago, when we moved our home 11 miles out here to Brownspur, our original plan was to put the house back together, put a roof back on it, re-wire & re-plumb it, then of course remodel the interior and paint the whole thing inside and out. Since I have a broken back and the only exercise I can do is to swim, we planned a concreted, chlorinated, filtered swimming pool in the back yard.

As I believe Bobbie Burns put it, “The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft awry.”  After remodeling, we didn’t have the $25,000 or so that a real swimming pool was going to cost.  My plan had gang aft awry.

So that summer, I took my tractor, dirt bucket, and blade to clean up an old silted-in stock pond in the pasture next to the house, under a huge cypress tree.  I intended to make it rectangular, but once I got about four feet down into that blue clay, I went in from the shallow end, made my turn in the deep end, and dropped the bucket for another load.  Took me three days to get the tractor out!

I studied the problem, and figured that I’d have to make my cuts at speed to get it twelve feet deep like I needed, so I added an L, and would come in from the side at speed for my cuts, intending to fill the L back in when I finished. But the kids, once I’d proclaimed it completed, protested, so I left it like that, and brought in three loads of clay gravel to spread and pack with the tractor wheels for a hard bottom.

Then I brought in four loads of white sand, and made it a beach.  Ran me a two-inch water line from my well (Billy Schultz said, “Heck, that’ll be good for that well, Son!”) and filled up the Brownspur Swimming Hole. During summer swimming season, I throw in eight pounds of chlorine a week, and a wee bit of Aqua-Shade, a concentrated blue dye.  Water comes out of my well at 68 degrees.

Yesterday the Brownspur thermometer said 106, and today it’s already 102 by noon, when I just finished mowing the lawn. Yesterday I didn’t get out there until about four, but today I’ll be there right after I finish about half of that tomato pie that Betsy is taking out of the oven, since I already tested it right after mowing and I want to assure you, it is absolutely perfect.

How do we spell Relief from the heat out here at Brownspur?  “S-W-I-M-M-I-N-G H-O-L-E.”

My neighbor and I were floating around out there one hot afternoon a couple of weeks ago, and for some reason we were discussing the Bible – his wife started that, as I recall. Whatever the question was, I advised Charlotte to ask Betsy when she came out there, but I assured her of one Biblical thing: “If Jesus came around here this afternoon, He would not walk on this water; He’d get in and cool off just like me and Jim are doing. This is a touch of Heaven, on a day as hot as today!”

I hope you have a Relief place yourself, but it ain’t near’bout good as mine!