The Bluff

I became a teenager in the early 1940s and in retrospect, acted the part perfectly, that is, cast possibilities of danger to the wind and did my own thing in other words, sometimes acted contrary to what the expectations of my parents might have been. And there was always friendly company to share this ultimate feeling of total freedom: no adult supervision.  No, this was not delinquent behavior but rather simply the growing up kind that almost all boys (and girls) experienced back then.
A good example was during the summer months when the river called.  I was fortunate to grow up with scores of friends, many peers who shared the same interests, mainly sports and especially swimming. There was no such thing as summer school except for one week of Bible School at the local church. Of course there were some limited chores that had to be performed at home, but generally the day’s schedule was nearly completely blank.
Nearly everyone my age liked to go swimming (in my case without my mother’s permission) and not far from the Mill Village was the scenic Little Pee Dee River and in particular a spot called Moccasin Bluff or simply The Bluff.  Perhaps it was 3+ miles away but seemed much further especially on the return trip when thirst became a constant problem since there was no drinking water available until we reached home.
The name of our destination would ordinarily put fear in the minds of people not familiar with the site.  I assume that the name ‘Moccasin’ reflected the presence of a poisonous snake, the Water Moccasin, a common habitant of the river.  I have seen many but never up close like my brother who had one to fall into his one man boat making it a no-man boat temporarily.
Moccasin Bluff was, of course, also named for its ‘bluff’ like bank, brought about by the eroding water current that made a curve thus creating the high bluff/bank. It was the perfect jumping off place when the water was at a moderate level and the depth sufficient for such a safe performance.  The swimming area was only a few feet long, perhaps c. 100.  It began at a tall, bank-side tree, (brave/? boys would climb and jump from one of its limbs).  I was not one of the brave.
Of course no one had any swimming instructions so you just taught yourself.  In my case, I was highly motivated to learn to swim because my younger brother, Sikes learned first which meant I had a good reason also to master the skill.
The trip to the river was by walking since there were not many cars available in the community.  
Then too, adults, mostly farmers, had other things to do rather than take an afternoon off to go swimming, available only to the young and carefree. Everyone went barefooted which meant that there was some nifty footwork when we came to the sandy parts of the trip which was nearly the entire trip since except for US301 there was no paved road locally.
Boys then didn’t dwell on the dangers of swimming unsupervised and if they had there would have been no afternoon at the river.  Today I think of what might have happened ‘way off’ from home with no transportation and no communication if there had been an accident.  It would have taken at least 30 minutes to get help if then.
Going to the river was mostly for recreation, but during harvest season, particularly tobacco, the river was the perfect destination where sticky bodies could be refreshed and cleaned by the cool, free flowing river water.
There was a consequence for disobeying my mother.  Since she could be easily outrun, she would patiently wait with her switch for a more appropriate time: while the fleet-footed were in the bed at night.
I heard recently that parents in supervising their children can be placed into two categories, free range and helicopter, free range meaning you’re basically on your own, helicopter meaning big brother is watching your every move. Fortunately helicopter parents had not yet arrived when I grew up.
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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