The Swimming Hole (Red Hole)
(Susan Barber Drummond)

I cannot imagine a better place to grow up in than Harwinton, Connecticut. I do know that I had a lot of relatives there, and I was always in trouble with mother when on my way home, usually from Rosemary Poole's -- my childhood best friend -- I was make a a couple of stops along the way which delayed my arrival in good steed. I so loved the trees and woods and animals and all the bird, animal and insect sounds with even an occasional tree or branch falling to the ground. When I was not in the woods itself, I was in the Lead Mine Brook. The water was glacial cold but fresh and clear and running prolifically. Some siblings, Rosemary and Charlie Kirchofer, Roger Plaskett, and a bunch of us would occasionally make the expedition from North Road down the Lead Mine Brook all the way to the Red Hole, our grand and great swimming hole. It seems like a long venture, and there were always a few of us that would fall in crossing the brook on stones or tree trunks. However, we rarely remained long in the water because it was so very cold. And, in those days we always were barefoot. I do not recall getting a ride back from Red Hole; I think we all just walked back home via South Road. Needless to say, we all certainly had a good night's sleep that evening.
There were many trips to Red Hole via North and South Roads, and we were always barefoot. I can remember the heat of the road as I ran from one shaded area to another along the way. Regardless of the hot-footedness, we still continued to walk barefoot. I do not think it ever occurred to any of us to wear shoes or sneakers. It just was not done in those days. Red Hole consisted of a bunch of huge boulders at the far end, down-river. There were a few ledges that we all used to jump off of. The ledges were just about the only way I ever could get into the water albeit I was not a great swimmer. It was just that cold. At the upper end of Red Hole there were falls that you could sit down by and where the water was warmer. There also was a 4' by 4' ledge just beneath the water level at one corner, and that was a place to also jump into the water from. As I said before, the water was cold -- even around thy ankles. Sometimes the level of water above that square ledge would be only 6" and sometimes more depending on the rains I imagine. Above the falls area it was fairly flat with sometimes rocks, sand and plant life. It was a fun area to explore for living water creatures to also include the water-bugs that seemingly walked on top of the water like Jesus did. The Lead Mine Brook actually went beneath a tall bridge. I remember when Danny Easton and Bobby Eselby jumped from the bridge -- Dan being the first. It was the most daring venture that I ever saw growing up, for sure. There were a couple more young boys jumping off the bridge also. And, needless to say, they all made it. They were awesome. And, meanwhile, I had all I could do to just jump into the water.
I remember that I was the tire tube lady. We gathered the couple of tubes that we had at our house. One time when father had taken us swimming at Red Hole and I was tubing half-way across the "hole" of deep, deep water, father asked me to give him the tube. Well, I did obey after a couple of requests, and I did swim the last half across the water but with a little very needed help by my father's foot and ankle. After that, I was the seasoned swimmer. Of course, Rosemary did absolutely everything before I did. I was nothing but a tiny little peanut, a preemie at that. Rosemary was just bigger than me, it did not take much, and she was more daring and adventurous than I. Even Sonny, my younger brother, was always more daring and adventurous as well as just doing just about everything before me. However, Sonny did pave the way for me. Once he did it, I somehow just managed whether I liked it or not. As the years passed, I finally realized Sonny, and then Henry, and later and finally Hank, was pure inspiration for me. If he could do it, so could I. But, getting back to Lead Mine and Red Hole, it was a fun and great place for everyone. However, it was a bit scary for me because I was not a real water person. And, I could not nor would not tolerate any person other than father or mother or Aunt Eva or Uncle Charlie to get near me. Otherwise, I was in fear of getting pushed down under the water. You see, I heard and remembered all the stories of what was at the bottom of Red Hole. There were dark things, there were monsters, and there were catfish with long spiraling whiskers that could get you. However, on the plus side, no matter how hard I tried nor which ledge I used, not to mention how many years it finally took me to jump off the top ledge which was 6 to 8 feet above the water level, (it seemed like a 100' in those days), I could never touch bottom no matter how straight I jumped off the ledges. Now why I even tried is beyond me, but try I would almost every time I would go swimming at Red Hole. And, talking about "straight" I was nothing but a straight and flat string bean and it would not have mattered how straight I tried to make myself. Meanwhile, years later, I realized that I never learned to dive and every single time I jumped into the water, I definitely had to hold my nose shut. No one told me about blowing out air as I jumped in, but I probably never would have tried that since I questioned whether I had enough air to make it back to the surface to begin with. And, do not anyone try to get near me in the water. I think the only one I trusted was Rosemary, my friend, and my brother Sonny. Years later in my late 20's, I was in the water in Oahu visiting friends trying to snorkel for the first time, and every time I saw something move, I began to either laugh or hyperventilate -- I am not sure which. Well, my friend Anne brought her husband out to try to help me, and I not only continued to do the aforementioned but wrecked his breathing by making him laugh. I had never ever opened my eyes under the water much less swim under water. I did not want to confront all those stories about the bottom depths of Red Hole. And, being paper thin anyway, I could not stay under the water long enough to swim there, anyway. And then, I could never float anywhere anyhow. That feat did not happen until Demaris Springs in Cody, Wyoming, with my two girls, Lindsay and Morgan. And, as they say, I had lots and lots of mineral spring’s bubbles assisting in every way possible. Back to Red Hole, however, it was in the 2000's years, and I returned. How sad that it does not exist anymore. Perhaps due to over-building of houses and wells over the years, Red Hole may cease to exist because there is so much less water running the brook, but at least Lead Mine is still a brook. However, the memories will never cease. The hot walks to and from Red Hole. Sometimes our parents would come to enjoy and give us a ride home. I know we would sometimes stop by at the Kelly's, Connor's, Poole's, Brown's, McKenzie's, Plaskett's.
As I gave up my spectacles to go out into the water with goggles and snorkel, I did not realize that when I finally did snorkel, right this time, I had the whole beach clapped for me as I came out of the water. Later, I was never sure it was for my efforts or for Anne and Dave Williams'. Ho! I just remember
Red Hole represented an excursion that our parents entrusted to us. It was a treat. An adventure. Hot-footing it. Having fun. Arguing. Running ahead, and sometimes lingering behind which would drive everyone nuts. The rule was: stay together no matter what. And, our faithful dog Bucky, a Springer Spaniel, was always with us. Always. See Bucky, there was always a Barber child about.
Lead Mine is also a memory of my first fishing escapade with Rosemary. On the main road, the the great hill and at the bottom, I fished for the first time with my friend. She brought the worms, we rigged to branches and string for our poles. I could not nor would not stab a worm with my fishing hook, so Rosemary did that. God Bless my best friend since before I can even remember. We did catch a couple of fish each at least. Rosemary rigged them on my pole so I could walk easily home with them. As I proudly made my way to North Road and 1/2 a mile up the road with another 1/2 mile to go, a person in a car stopped by me, and asked about the fish. Yes, I did know it was a trout; Rosemary told me so. And, no, I did not know that fishing season began the day after today. I did eat my fish that night for supper because Rosemary cleaned it for me. I was not with her when she apparently learned how to do this. It tasted great, even though I was a day early in catching it. I did, however, mention that I was willing to cook and eat my trout the next day because I did know what "legal" meant. Mother said the fish could not wait. And, that was that. Thank you Harwinton. Thank you all the Harwinton people -- my family. Susan Agema Catlin Barber Drummond 7-0702007