People occasionally ask, "Why did you use that picture of
a ganglin’ 10 year old in a bathing suit on the dust cover
of your book?"
I explain, "That’s me as a kid."
"That’s YOU?" they shout. Then I look in the
mirror and clearly understand their problem: I’ve changed a
lot in three quarters of a century, but my love of water stays
I’ve loved water from the first time Mom spanked me for
puddling in the chicken trough with shoes on. The photo was of my
first bathing suit. It was bright red with white stripes, 100
percent wool! We swam in our clothes in Grindstone Creek, but a
suit was required at the first outdoor Columbia pool.
I sold Christmas trees, black walnuts and wild blackberries to
Dad’s milk customers, so I opened an account at Columbia
Savings Bank with $30.
My first check bought a regulation, leather basketball for $5.
Months later I wrote another check for that one bathing suit,
We Meyers’ didn’t know about allowances. We did
chores because we were family.
For example, I was permitted to bank the extra money, but I
also picked blackberries for our own table.
One bountiful year, the whole family picked enough for Mom and
me to make 96 quarts of jam! I cranked the food chopper to crush
every berry to make a smoother jam; no extra money was expected.
I went to that new swimming pool and found a great slide
mounted over the water. There was nothing like that at Flat Rock
swimming hole. I climbed the ladder, got my legs over the
"hump" and held on for a moment, then let go and made
the exciting first trip down. It was great! I climbed and slid,
over and over all afternoon with kids I’d never seen before.
In the dark, messy dressing room, I pulled off my red wool suit
and discovered I’d worn the seat threadbare!
There’s a streak of dare-devil in my make-up. I was the
only kid in our group who could jump off a dead tree trunk into
water deep enough to be over a man’s head.
I could win the short races at our creek swimming holes. I
could stand upside down with hands on mud and those ganglin’
legs sticking up out of the water. And I could turn back
somersaults without holding my nose.
At an early age I made up a swimming style by watching frogs
and could lope through the water better than most kids at the
When I was in seventh grade at University Lab School, girls
could take swimming for their physical education class. I saved
the money that summer to pay the fee. I never dreamed that there
was anything I didn’t already know about swimming.
On that wonderful first day the University instructor, Ruby
Cline, told us to stay in shallow water if we couldn’t swim
and to go on down to the deep end if we could. I took off loping
through the water with my homemade style of swimming, and Miss
Cline hurried down to stop me and sent me back to shallow water
saying, "That isn’t real swimming."
I was humiliated, crushed, but not for long. She was a great
teacher, and in the years that followed she coached me through
senior life saving, Red Cross Examiner’s requirements,
MU’s women’s swimming team and the required skills for
the honorary club Missouri Mermaids.
When Christian College, now Columbia College, needed a
swimming teacher, she sent me for the interview. I got the job
and stayed on for 33 years!