A cooler of Cokes & an AM radio

Published 7:08 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Short Rows Header

    An ice chest filled with Ben Jones’ ice, coarsely chipped, kept canned Coca Colas and 7Ups chilled as we headed to Jones Creek for another Sunday afternoon aboard our unnamed but sturdy oil-drum raft.

    An AM portable radio tuned to WGH offered “Little Deuce Coup,” “Return to Sender” and “Louie Louie.” You could depend on all the current top hits cycling through — several times — by Gene Loving. (If we were still prowling around late in the evening Roger Clark would keep up company.)

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

    The raft offered a platform for swimming and sunning while an old Aristocraft speedboat of my brother’s offered skiing. Made you wonder what the poor kids were doing. Actually, we were on Jones Creek. But it’s all a matter of perspective. None of us felt terribly poor at the time.

    The Doggett Farm provided the jumping off point for these nautical excursions. They had a landing and modest dock touching deep water and that was all the waterfront anyone could ask for.

    There were occasional afternoon thunderstorms to douse everyone and soak the few dry towels that remained at the end of the day. And when a storm didn’t run us off, there days would often end with a fire up on the hill over which we cooked hotdogs and around which we polished off the last of the soft drinks.


    The upper reaches of local creeks also offered at least partial protection from dreaded stinging nettles, which infested the James River, including the favored swimming haunts of Johnson’s and Morgart’s Beaches. A red-tentacled nettle wrapped around your belly could spoil your whole outing, but up Jones Creek, the nettles were few and of piddling size.

    Not so, the snakes. There were an abundance of water snakes up the creeks in those days — probably still are — and when things got otherwise boring (I mean, how much time can you spend with girls in a single afternoon?), then the males among us would go snake shooting in the numerous creek guts.

    We spent a majority of Sundays on the creek during the summers, but particularly in July and August, we felt the need to cram as much entertainment into our lives as possible. Fall — and school — were coming. And in the summer after high school graduation, we knew that our world was soon to change completely. In fact, after most of us graduated in 1964 and 1965, the creek was pretty much abandoned, was was the raft, and things never were the same again.