Summer in the Country

by Joanne Nesbit
photo by George Bredewater

There was no water park or swimming pool in Brown County State Park. There was no Brown County State park. But youngsters in and around Nashville still found a way to cool off during summer’s heat.

Charles Robertson wrote for “Brown County Remembers” that the favorite place for skinny-dippin’ was on Crooked Creek in what the boys called the Big Blue Hole. It was deep, Robertson noted, and it had a bluish cast. But the best parts of the hole was a high bank to dive from and a mud slide.

“Mothers in the neighborhood didn’t often let the little boys go along because the hole was so deep—way over their heads”, wrote Robertson. But the family story is that one day when his dad Joseph Robertson was only six year old, he tagged along with the older guys to the Big Blue Hole. Joseph’s older brother Foster grabbed the younger Robertson and threw him off the bank into the deep hole while yelling “swim or drown!” Little Joseph managed to dog-paddle his way to the shore. Guess there wasn’t a whole lot of danger of his drowning as the older boys had a code of behavior: “If a boy went under the third time, they yanked him out.”

When tired of swimming the local boys decided to see who was the toughest. After cutting an ironweed and stripping off the leaves, the naked fellows would roll in a cow path to cover themselves with dust. Then they would grab hold of each other’s hands and start whipping until someone yelled “uncle!” The one who could take the beating the longest was declared the winner.

And speaking of summer dust, Martha Weddle wrote for Brown County Remembers that a summer trip from Brown County to Columbus over Old State Road 46’s gravel created so much dust that “side curtains were put up on the open car. I always held a handkerchief over my nose and mouth.” And that was a state highway. Think about all the county roads that were dirt, gravel, or a combination.

In earlier times most Brown County families tended gardens during summers—even the kids. Families canned and dried a variety of fruits and vegetables and even made sauerkraut from the harvested cabbages. Huckster wagons plied the county’s dirt roads loaded with melons, more fruits and vegetables, live chickens, and essentials for the home.

Many a Brown County home had a summer kitchen—a building apart from the house where cooking and preserving could be carried on without adding more heat to the house already steaming with southern Indiana humidity and sun.

Outdoors became the cooling system for kids and adults. Children played during the day in the shade of large trees in the back or front yards. Meals were even eaten in that shade. If company came by for a visit, chairs from the house were moved to the yard and pallets and pillows distributed when there were not enough chairs. Children took naps in the shade, comfortable on pallets strewn in the grass.

Artists, too, traveled the roads of Brown County putting to canvas or film summer’s colors found in gardens, tall hollyhocks next to leaning buildings and along roadsides leaving a visual record of summer in Brown County.