Lazy Day Destinations – Joe Rock
James R. Aist
Growing up in rural Arkansas left me with many fond memories of favorite places, especially when it was summer vacation and I could just pick up and go by myself, or with a friend or two, on a hot, lazy summer afternoon.
When I was around 12 years old and my family lived in Evening Shade (the real one, population 315 at the time, not the fictional one on the TV sit-com), one of my favorite places was “Joe Rock.” Just across Highway 11 from our home in Evening Shade, and about a ten minute walk down a winding farm road (see photo at upper right), was Piney Creek, which ran clear and warm in the summer until the dog days of August set in (During dog days, clumps of dead, brown algae would rise from the creek bottom and float down stream, making the water less appealing). If you made a right turn when you reached Piney Creek and followed along the creek bank for maybe 50 yards or so, you came to Joe Rock. Now Joe Rock was a real rock of rather large proportions (perhaps 5-6 feet across and rising above the water line about 3 feet) that was just sitting there in Piney Creek with water swirling all around it. Joe Rock was the sight of an inviting swimming hole, because, over the years, the water current had carved out a depression in the creek bottom around the rock, and the water around Joe Rock was about 3-4 feet deep, suitable for shallow diving from atop this solitary boulder. From the bank, Joe Rock looked like you might expect any large, over-sized rock to look, but it was no ordinary rock. Under the water, hidden from view, were three “legs” that extended down in tri-pod fashion from Joe Rock, keeping it suspended above the creek bottom about a foot or so. I’ve never seen anything like it.
This unique feature conferred a fascination on Joe Rock that added to the excitement of each visit. We enjoyed donning swimming goggles, “diving” down, swimming underwater around Joe Rock and peeking between its “legs” at each other. And that’s how I discovered that there were often one or two large-mouth bass lurking around and between the “legs” of Joe Rock, using it as cover.
Well, one day I decided it would be fun to see if I could spear one of those bass and take it home for dinner. So, the next time I left the house and set out for Joe Rock, I snuck a cooking fork from a kitchen drawer and fully intended to impale one of the bass on it. And sure enough, when I got to Joe Rock and slipped into the water, there were two unsuspecting bass just swimming lazily in and out around the “legs” of the rock. I took a deep breath, slowly submerged myself under the water and stealthily approached my prey so as not to spook them. After a few tries, I finally got close enough to one of the bass to make my move. With all my 12-year old might, I thrust the fork violently toward the unsuspecting entrée, but, alas, the fork just brushed him aside without even leaving a mark. That’s when I realized that one’s arm can move a lot faster through air than through water; I just wasn’t able to generate the fork speed required to pierce the elusive prey.
I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed that I would have to return from my fishing expedition empty handed, but I didn’t let that minor setback keep me from enjoying the rest of my swim. After all, the bass did make each visit to Joe Rock that much more exciting, so why not just leave them be, for everyone to enjoy? And so I did, and they did.
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