On those hot summer days on our farm back in the 1950s, my brother and I would often go swimming to cool off. The only problem is that neither of us could actually swim. We would jump into any body of water that was handy, such as the horse watering tank or the "hog wallow," which was a concrete basin down by the barn that contained about 6 inches of water for Dad's sows to lay in and cool off. Unfortunately, more often than not, floating on top of the water were dead bugs, catalpa seeds, leaves and an occasional dead bird . . . OK . . . no problem.
Behind the barn, there was a hog lot that held water in one corner after a good rain. I never cooled off in that mudhole, but my brother Gary and his friend, Stan Weliever, tried it out one afternoon. They floated in the mudhole in their underwear for an hour or so. I will never forget watching the two of them walking back to our house when they were done, as both of them were covered in blood-sucking leeches! I fished and waded in the shallow waters at nearby gravel pits and creeks, luckily never falling in or stepping into any deep holes. But by the time I was a senior in high school, I still had not learned how to swim.
As a student at Purdue in the late 1960s, I majored in Social Studies, PE and Health to become a teacher, and one of the required classes was swimming and life-saving. On the first day, the all-male students, in their bathing trunks, milled around waiting for the instructor to appear. We assumed it would be a graduate student leading the class; however, to our surprise the instructor was the Purdue swimming and diving team coach, 65-year old Richard "Pappy" Papenguth, who had been at Purdue since 1939 and had coached four Olympians and nine world record holders.
As I stood there nervously awaiting my first swimming lesson, I heard someone yell out, "Line up in alphabetical order by your last name." I looked up and it was Pappy. He had on a pair of reading glasses and was looking down at his clipboard, and he was conducting the class "au naturel" . . . The only apparel he had on was a string with a whistle around his neck. Yes, he was completely NUDE! I looked at the fellow next to me, and he looked at me. We didn't know what to think, and then he whispered, "Oh, my God . . . this is WEIRD . . . I think I should have taken badminton!"
Before I could reply, Pappy yelled out, "When I call your name, if you can swim, jump in and swim across the pool . . . If you cannot swim, jump in the shallow part and wade across." I thought to myself that this was going to be embarrassing, as I was likely the only one of the thirty or so students who could not swim. As he called off seven or eight names, each boy jumped in and swam across the pool.
Then Pappy called out "Dale." I sheepishly plopped into the shallow section and started to wade across the pool. After I took a few steps, he shouted "Davis." I glanced back, and walking behind me was Alex Davis, who was a 6 ft. 8 in. defensive tackle on the Purdue football team. He was in two other classes with me, and we had become good friends. He looked at me and said in a deep voice, "Don't worry, little buddy . . . if you fall down, I'll pick you up!"
Well, to make a long story short, Pappy told all of us that we WOULD learn how to swim . . . or we WOULD receive a failing grade. He was an excellent instructor, and I did learn how to swim and save a life in that class. But poor Alex never did learn how to swim. He couldn't even float, as he kept sinking to the bottom of the pool and could not avoid getting water up his nose. But guess what? Alex received a grade of "C" at semester end . . . I suspect Purdue's football coach had a "little talk" with Pappy.
And what about ol' Pappy? We could never understand why he conducted his swimming classes in the nude . . . At that age he wasn't in the best of shape. It was not a pretty sight. One of the students suggested we place a pair of swimming trunks on the desk in his office when he wasn't looking . . . to kind of give him a little hint, but no one ever did. And tragically, he died in a traffic accident two years later when he turned in front of an oncoming car as he was pulling into his driveway. The newspaper report of the accident did not state whether or not Pappy was only wearing a whistle on a string at the time of his demise.
Well, anyway . . . thanks Pappy . . . and for your sake, I hope there is a nudist colony in Heaven.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history. He writes a general column that appears in The Paper on Fridays and a local sports column on Tuesdays.