Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Swimming pools, water are a danger year-round

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!

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