During the first hot days in May I have a sudden urge to warn
parents that small children might venture into their favorite
swimming hole without supervision. In winter I get that same
urge! Water looks great to a tot who’s too young to know
about safety and water purity. Several years ago a little Boone
County climber went over a fence and drowned in a septic lagoon.
Nancy Russell and I formerly taught swimming in our backyard
pools. We coached every child saying, "This is a swimming
pool when a parent or teacher is watching you, but when
you’re alone it’s not to get in." And we’d
say, "Sometimes water can hurt you. Wait until the person in
charge says, You can come in now.’ " You teach
them to cross the street? Use the same approach with water.
Swimming pool gates should be locked or wired shut in winter
as well as in summer. Children should not use the pool deck as a
play area. Riding toys can run off or topple over the edge into
the water. Kids love to float little boats by reaching over the
water and some have toppled in, fully clothed. People of all ages
like to bounce on a diving board. In winter it’s dangerous
because if anyone loses his balance he’s in big trouble in
cold water fully clothed.
When I was strolling near a neighbor’s farm pond with our
little dog at my side, I walked out on a low level dock. Suddenly
Dinah became tangled in water weeds, drowning, because weeds
covered the surface and looked just like the pasture to her. I
dropped to my knees and grabbed her by the nape of her neck and
brought her out. I realized then that a little child might make
the same mistake that Dinah made. We can’t trust little
children to recognize the dangers of large watering troughs,
stagnant ponds or unguarded swimming pools. Don’t expect
them to read "Do not swim here" and the fine print that
follows. Be as concerned in winter as in summer. Use the same
"brainwashing" technique to teach children about
natural ice on creeks and ponds. "Wait till some grown up
says, It’s OK’ and I’m here with you."
In Michigan we skated a half-mile out from shore to do ice
fishing. Some drove pickup trucks even farther on the thick ice
and chopped a hole for fishing. Some built little shanties and
used heaters. A few were sent adrift in spring as the ice broke
up. Mid-American states don’t have that kind of ice. Boone
County has few winters when natural ice is thick enough to
attract skaters. However a frozen pond attracts children of all
ages and they go sliding and twisting on it, pretending to be the
figure skaters they see on TV.
Hunters sometimes follow their dogs across creeks or small
rivers where water flows under the ice. Because ice forms first
and thickest near the shore the crossing is hazardous if
it’s flowing water; there may be very thin ice or
none at all where the water is moving.
Children on ice should be guarded the same as when they are
swimming. Parents should discuss this early in the winter and
"brainwash" as with crossing the street. Although ice
supports trucks in northern states, Missouri winters usually
don’t provide enough ice for public skating.
One final winter warning: Not all outdoor pools are fenced and
locked. Some fences are not very high. Some heated pools at
hotels and resorts are without doors or life guards. When
registering make sure that the pool is safe or fold your
checkbook and walk away!