I have written a number of columns mentioning ditches over the past few months--burning the banks, asparagus growing there, swings over, forts in, milkweed growing along, etc. The canals and ditches of Millard County are an integral part of the agricultural system of the area, they were also a load of fun for the children growing up there.
With summer in full swing, the water will once again be flowing through the ditches of my childhood. There were some canal segments in Hinckley which were particular favorites of the kids of my generation. Damron's Deep and Big Ditch were my two favorite swimming holes; they always had a crowd of kids dressed in cut offs and t-shirts during the hottest part of every summer day.
The Damron Family had widened and deepened the ditch on one side of the large headgate near their home. This was a favorite place to jump in, splash, and swim for a large group of kids. I would often meet my friends there. We could jump off the headgate, swing from a rope tied in a tree, or just wade in from the shallower part of the ditch, but once you were in the 'deep' section, it was all fun and games. The current swirled us around and carried us downstream. It took some hard work to keep yourself in the deepest place. I became a powerful dog paddler in Damron's Deep.
After several summers of burrowing our toes into the mud in Damaron's ditch, they plastered the bottom of the ditch with cement. I don't recall who did the work, but I do remember it being rough compared to the slick, smooth mud and after a few bloodied toes, we learned to wear shoes when playing there.
Big Ditch was another favorite water hole. It was a very wide, but not deep place in a ditch north of Hinckley Elementary School. I'm not certain if someone had manually extended the sides to make it such a large space or if years of water erosion created the large bowl-like structure, but we would sit in the water like a group of hot-tubers when we went there. We would spend a little time splashing about, but mostly we just sat and visited. It was more of a social rather than a physical event being in Big Ditch.
My Grandma Basham came to help my mother when my baby brother, Mark, was born in June of 1972. Grandma was absolutely aghast that my mom allowed Jim and me to play in the grayish-green water that flowed through the ditches. She put us on notice, that while she was there we would not be allowed in that water. I could not understand her aversion to the muddy ditch or the water flowing through it. It was cool, it was fun, and everybody was doing it. She certainly put a damper on the first half of our summer that year.
Luckily, grandmas don't stick around too long and Jim and I were once again allowed to swim in our favorite spots. Unluckily, that August Jim and I both contracted Impetigo which Dr. Lyman blamed on the irrigation water.
Concerns about bacterial infections, pesticides, herbicides, and debris found in irrigation water have come to the notice of many in recent decades. Swallowing unpurified water could result in parasitic disease or other medical complications. In more recent times, the idea of playing in dirty water has completely changed. I'm grateful for the fun memories I have of swimming in the ditch. My mother didn't bat an eye about her kids splashing in the irrigation water; however, I'm sure if she ever saw her grandchildren swimming in that water, she would have thrown a fit. Apparently, a grandma's role is to spoil children rotten in some ways, while determining dangerous possibilities and demanding changes even before science proves her point.