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Raised on the 'Cat

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kokomo reservoir

OUR PLAYGROUND — An aerial shot of Kokomo Reservoir looks southeast toward Greentown at Water Works Road in the early 1970s.

New York City, wow, what a place! I've been privileged enough to make a couple of visits to the Big Apple. Anything you desire to eat or drink is available and top notch. Entertainment of any description is at your fingertips and just a brief bus, cab, or subway ride away.

Like Ol' Blue Eyes said, “It's the city that never sleeps.” An ever-present cacophony of trucks, buses, taxicabs, jet aircraft, and clattering elevated trains play havoc with auditory senses regardless of the hour.

Oh, I can't deny it. the place is very exciting, and I loved the experience. However, for a steady diet, I can't do it. After a few days in the bustling metropolitan atmosphere, I yearned for fresh air, the chirp of crickets, and the Big Dipper's outline after dusk. Con Edison can't replicate the heavens.

I'm from Indiana and darned proud of it. Naw sir, I'm what the “hip” crowd calls a hick. Of this I don't deny. To bring this fact home, all I need to do is listen to a recording of my own voice. Wow, what a hick!

I think it has something to do with the water. My family has been slaking their thirst from the wells in eastern Howard County since 1864. I think the limestone, iron, and sulfur deposits affect the brain stem, which eventually re-routes warped nerve impulses to the lips, tongue, and larynx. Thereby I'm verbally branded through my ancestors. It's not my fault, y'all.

I grew up about one quarter of a mile west of the Wildcat Creek on U.S. 35., just a stone's throw from the land of Greentown Beavers. The Wildcat was my playground. Walking along the creek bank seeing fish, frogs, snakes, or throwing stones at floating bottles occupied my summer days.

Kokomo Reservoir 1974

OUR PLAYGROUND — The Kokomo Reservoir is shown looking northeast of Greentown on 750 East on Water Works Road during the 1974 drought.

My two besties were twins my age living right next to the creek. We were the Three Musketeers during our teen years. The old Wildcat provided the backdrop for endless canoeing journeys along the main channel and into hidden backwaters with our faithful K-9 Bowser right with us. More than once we found ourselves embroiled in swarms of tempestuous mosquitoes and deerflys. Blasted little bloodsuckers!

Summer was a special time with long days and clear nights. A late evening swim in the creek's gentle flow was not out of the question.

We three would make camp on their property near the water's edge. We'd lash some long, dead branches together and throw an old canvas tarp across the rudimentary wooden frame. We called it our “lean-to.” Sleeping bags would be unfurled atop a ground cloth where we essentially slept on the ground. Avoiding abundant goose droppings was essential for our lodging location choice.

A glowing campfire with sparks rising toward the stars delivered just enough light for us to see our lines as we tempted ugly carp and catfish with chicken livers, dough balls, and the like. Bullfrogs croaked their messages back and forth across the creek as our eyelids grew heavy. With but dying embers remaining of the campfire, we withdrew into the comfortable cocoon of our sleeping bags.

At dawn's early light we would coax the dormant campfire back to life. A few eggs would be prepared in a small lake of bacon grease as our young heads and bodies greeted the new day. We didn't sleep much, but who cared? We had fun communing with the creek.

Being much older, I'm quite content to live among the corn and soybean fields. Oh, I get antsy, desiring to see new locales and vistas, but it's normal. That's what vacations are for. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my inclination toward simple habitation.

Good heavens, some of my high school classmates couldn't wait to get out of Dodge. I get it. It was their preference. It just ain't my cuppa tea.

The Wildcat Creek may not bear the majesty or history of the Volga, Rhine, or Seine, but for this Hoosier boy's family, it's taken care of us for a long, long time. 'Nuf said. Let's go fishin'.

- That’s 30 -