The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

From cow tanks to city pools - kids gotta get wet


July 22, 2018

Country kids, like I was, have pretty low standards when it comes for a place to swim on a hot summer day.

Our earliest “swimming hole” was a low spot about a quarter mile south of our house in the pasture. We called it the Caliche Tank, thanks to an outcropping of that chalky rock in the immediate area.

After a good rain, it gathered runoff from a large area, and we weren’t the only ones who shared the mucky results. Cattle happily gathered there, as did horses, turtles, frogs, mosquitos, dragonflies, wasps … you get the picture.

Our ever-enterprising mother, who was raising three small children, wanted an upgrade. She found an opportunity to earn some nice side money by cooking two meals a day for a crew of commercial brush sprayers who were here for a few weeks for several springs in a row.

She saved those incredibly hard-earned dollars to invest in the materials needed for our dad to build what we called our swimming pool.

Lest you be misled by the word “pool,” it was really an over-sized and marginally glorified metal cow tank, 4 1/2-foot tall sheet metal walls with a home-built wooden deck accessed by a pipe ladder welded by our dad.

The floor was poured concrete, the stuff of legend in our family because it was delivered in a commercial truck and — the story goes — set quicker than the hastily assembled crew (probably our father and a hired hand) could spread it.

As a result, we ended up with “the deep end” and “the shallow end.” The drain was one victim in the process. It was, alas, in the shallow end, well above about half of the floor area.

In spite of a somewhat rocky beginning (pun completely intended), that oval tank provided us with years of green and mossy entertainment. Unlike our city friends who swam in sparkling crystal blue water, we had no filters, no pumps, and no chlorine.

The daily “cleaning” was allotted to the first person to climb in (we always stalled to try to make sure this was our mother), and was done with a net fashioned out of an old window screen attached to a pipe handle. Our father never believed in buying something he could make himself.

We occasionally had city-slicker visitors who would stand on the deck, stare with horror into murky depths, and exclaim, “You swim in THAT?”

Indeed, we did, for hours on end, because there is truly no better way to survive the brutal heat of summer than soaking until your fingerprints shrivel.

And that is only one reason I’m happy to see the annual Kiwanis swimming events on the calendar for this week in Portales.

Each year, members of the Kiwanis Club of Portales try to make sure area kids have at least one chance to enjoy the city pool for no cost at all. This year, they have two.

On Wednesday, the club will host its annual “swim meet,” a two-hour chance for kids ages 6-12 to participate in races like breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. It’s set for 1-3 p.m. in the Portales City Pool at 320 E. Seventh St.

The kids will be competing mostly for fun, but also for ribbons, and a chance to dive for coins at the end. All the swimmers are then invited to towel off and head out into the City Park for cold watermelon.

On Friday, the Kiwanians are sponsoring a “free swim day” at the pool for all area youth. The pool will be open from 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. with no admission fee for the 18 and under crowd.

Whether it’s in a squishy mud pond, a slimy green tank, or a public city pool, every kid needs the opportunity to cool off when summer sets in.

I tip my sweaty hat this week to the Kiwanians for this gift to our kids.

Betty Williamson hopes both events go … um … swimmingly. Reach her at:


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