I drove across Dead Horse Creek recently on a trek to the old home place north of Calvertville. I don't know the circumstances or the time when this creek received its name.
There is nothing spectacular about this small Highland Township creek as it makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The concrete bridge is older than I am. It is spring fed but mostly it drains rainwater from the hills and hollers to the east. Much of the time there is little water flowing and there are many small reflection pools that form along its banks especially around the abutment under the bridge that made a dandy swimmin' hole.
What makes Dead Horse Creek memorable? It is certainly not the mighty eight foot long bridge or the mighty stream that flows beneath the bridge. It's memories. The events that transpired on and under that bridge give it a place in my life's memory bank.
Picture two small farm boys who were under 10 years of age. What do they do when they have some free time in the hot summer? I can tell you that two of our favorite activities were fishing and swimming. Brother and I spent many a happy hour skinny dipping in the cool water of Dead Horse Creek. At times we had to hide when travelers passed along the road. However, in deep rural Indiana, that did not occur very often.
One memorable day, we were swimming with two boys who were visiting their uncle. One fellow was out on the bank, naked as a jay bird when a car approached. We pelted him with mud balls and other items to prevent him from getting to safety giving no quarter. It is a guy thing, ladies. He began to weep and wail and we relented and allowed him to plummet into the water and slither under the bridge. Today there would be hardly enough water to wade in, but to a little guy, it was larger than the swimming hole that James Whitcomb Riley wrote about.
We had a great day fishing once as we caught nearly two dozen sunfish none large enough to eat. That did not matter to the intrepid fishermen who counted it as a good day.
Crossing Dead Horse Creek means nothing to most people, but to me, it evokes many fond memories of a farm kid growing up in rural Indiana. When I was a boy I dreamed of growing up and getting a good job, having a family, being an adult, being in charge, of having a responsible position. I wanted to make decisions and have people depend upon me. I wanted to be more than just a snot-nosed kid who swam in the creek.
Life churned on and I achieved many things. I am an adult with a family and I achieved success with responsible positions accountable for making crucial decisions and administering hundreds of people. With that came obligations, duties and liabilities and great demands every day. They often wore me down. On those days, I would sit and daydream about how wonderful it would be if I could swim in Dead Horse Creek again.