Blue Ribbon Bill

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              June 30, 2016

                                      

I was an energetic eight, like a wind-up toy that takes off in unpredictable directions. That was me! Our family was living in Williamstown, West Virginia, home of the Fenton Art Glass Company. My mom and dad worked across the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio. We were a family of five in a small town that was devoted to kids. One of those devotions was a summer program at the community park. Each morning, Monday through Friday, kids would come to the park for crafts, games, and Kool-Aid.

At the end of the summer was the annual gathering up the river in Vienna of kids from all the park districts in the county for various swimming races and track and field competitions. I had completed a week of decent behavior at home, not setting anything on fire or getting caught in a lie, so Mom and Dad said I could go on the bus to Vienna. I scurried off that morning, brown lunch bag in tow, headed for a day of adventure.

The community park in Vienna had a huge outdoor pool, even a terrifying high dive, which I kept my distance from. Buses filled the parking lot unloading children, most of whom had high-pitched voices like me.

Everyone got settled and the swimming competitions began. I was entered in the 25 yard freestyle for eight year olds, plus the 100 yard freestyle relay. I had my J.C. Penney’s swim trunks on, characterized by their lack of fashion and dullness. I, however, didn’t know that they weren’t in style. My mom worked at Penney’s! Everything I wore was from Penney’s, all the way from my “Chuck Taylor high tops” to my Towncraft “whitie-tighties” to the bow tie I wore on Sundays to church.

The announcement came for all eight year old boys to report to the deep end of the pool. I scooted along the concrete in that direction. Twenty five yards doesn’t seem like very much, but from the deep end of the pool it looked like the whole length of West Virginia. I stood there waiting and in another few moments one other boy arrived. He looked scared. Someone must have told him that he was swimming against an Olympic champion. He looked over the side of the pool into the water, and his eyes got bigger.

A man who looked all official approached us. We stared at him. We knew he was older than eight, plus he had clothes on, so he must not be in the race with us.

“Are you boys here for the eight year old 25 yard freestyle?” We both looked up at him and nodded yes.

And then my competition, while looking once again over the side of the pool, asked him a question. “Is this water over my head?”

“Yes, it is! It’s twelve feet deep.”

His eyebrows rose up to the top of his head, and then in a quivering voice he said to the man, “Well, I can’t swim!”

The man looked at me and said, “Well, I guess that means you win, son!”

I won! I hadn’t even gotten wet! I was the Wood County, West Virginia eight year old 25 yard freestyle swimming champion!

It did not seem like the right time to inform the man that I couldn’t swim either! I figured I could dog paddle at least until I got to the shallow end of the pool. However, I was okay with not having to find out whether to not that was the reality or not.

Honesty and openness had not arrived in my life yet. Those Sunday School lessons probably wouldn’t be taught until I was nine! He pointed me towards a table to the side where I was to go to pick up my blue ribbon.

A little later on our relay team was lined up to swim. Conveniently, we were the only team entered so we were awarded first place. I had won my second blue winner in the swimming competition that I didn’t have to get wet for…and even more bizarre, in the swimming competition that I couldn’t swim in!

In the afternoon, however, I outran about twenty other boys in the 50 yard dash. I moved like a young gazelle in my Chuck Taylor’s. Call me Speedy!

Three blue ribbons! Blue Ribbon Bill! One of them won legally with full disclosure, and two with tight lips, unable to spill the beans.

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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