by: ,


That's what it says on the concrete floor of the swim center where I go to subject myself to water torture three or four times a week.

It always makes me smile when I see that. Like I'm going to run out there and do my laps because I can't wait to get started.

There are, of course, people who need to be reminded not to run. They're called kids.

This is what strikes me as amusing. There was a time when I, too, had to be yelled at around swimming pools. Usually it was preceded by a toot on the lifeguard's whistle. Then:

'No running!'

Or, perhaps, 'No jumping or diving on that end of the pool!'

Or, 'Put that suit on!'

You know, the usual kids' stuff.

I got yelled at a lot. In fact, it occurred to me at a pretty young age that at almost any given moment in my childhood, I could be in trouble for one of several things I might have been observed doing, by any number of neighborhood moms or passing adults.

'Mikel, is that you?' I would hear as soon as my tennis shoes hit the back porch.

'Yep,' I would dutifully reply.

'Come in here, I want to talk to you.'

Geesh, I would think, wondering what I'd been seen doing. Throwing rocks at the insulators on power poles? Riding Eddie Malcolm's bike on the highway, even though it was expressly forbidden because of the giant rock trucks hauling house-size boulders to the Newport jetty? Shooting my BB gun in some unauthorized direction? Calling my brother dirty names? Flinging inappropriate things into the river? Something I said or did on the school bus (like losing the garter snake that I'd fished out of my pocket to prove to Connie Smalley that I did too have a snake in there)?

'Were you kids throwing gourds again?' my mom would ask.

'I don't know, maybe,' I'd say, straining not to be untruthful. 'Why?'

'One of the neighbors said she saw some kids throwing something at cars, and I wondered if you were one of them.'

'Oh, no - not at cars,' I swore in my softest courtroom whisper meant to indicate maximum reverence - not unlike the voice Chris Schenkel would later use to describe golf or bowling action on TV.

We had already learned a valuable lesson about throwing things at cars during a severe winter, when a round of snowballs flung at Darrell Smallwood's shiny, souped-up Chevy resulted in the chasing down and seriously scaring of several of the young perpetrators.

'Well, quit throwing things!' she'd say.

We knew it applied to eggs, which we'd been known to purchase for 25 cents a dozen for the purpose of dropping them off the Barclay and Noble Bridge into passing fishing boats.

We knew it meant dirt clods, which we'd hurled with such ferocity I'd come into the house (not once, but twice) with eyes so full of ground-in dirt my dad used up a whole bottle of Murine getting them cleaned out.

And it covered cowpies, which were easily flung like disks when they were good and dry, or catapulted with shovels when wet. Also alder spears, chunks of bark, globs of river moss, baseballs tossed onto the roof so we could catch them after they bounced their way back down to the overhang, a sound especially grating to the grownups inside.

When we left the gate unlatched and the Joneses' old cow wandered into the garden and ate everything in sight, there was yelling.

When we were supposed to be asleep in our rooms and innocent comic book reading by flashlight turned from a brotherly argument into a dogpile that entailed hitting and eventually crying, there was yelling.

There was yelling when we tracked in mud, when we slammed the door hard enough to cause cakes to fall, made ample noise to wake our little brother (the little crybaby), when there was a basketball bouncing in the house, when we jumped as high as we could, first to touch the top of the doorway and later the ceiling, or when something would be thrown hard enough in the living room to break a window.

And always, when we ran in the house, there was yelling.

'No running in the house!'

Just the memory of it is almost enough to make a person want to run in the house, just because I can. Or to run from the locker room out to the pool.

But I don't. I'm not only one of those doing the yelling now; I'm also too tired to run.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine