Getting in that last swim of summer

Summer turned to fall suddenly overnight on Saturday.
I had gone for the last long swim of the year that afternoon. It is the latest I’ve ever swam in September in Rainy Lake.
In fact, the water was warmer Saturday than it had been during the months of June, July, and early August.
The dock at the end of Fifth Street was filled with kids getting in their last lake swims of the year late Friday afternoon. It was crowded, much the same way the Pither’s Point Park dock used to be when swimming lessons were offered there.
Growing up, prior to the building of the pool, all Red Cross lessons were offered only during the month of July at the Point. The lessons in the morning were for kids registered in junior, intermediate, and senior while those in the afternoon were for novice and beginners.
Today, the Red Cross offers more classes for kids to advance through.
Growing up, we would ride to the Point on our bikes (I guess that was our warm-up and stretching) although some took the bus that Mr. Wright used to operate.
The lessons for intermediate and senior were an hour long; those for junior were shorter.
Regardless of the day, and regardless of the water temperature, we swam. The teachers and lifeguards often were bundled up in jackets and towels. The swimmers often were cold and shivering on the docks as we didn’t have any towels to wrap around ourselves.
Four floating docks were connected together with floating buoy lines.
A catwalk connected the closer dock to shore with a dock farther out. The teachers would take the rowboat to the first dock and walk out while the students would get to swim out to the farther one.
We would walk on our tip-toes as far as we could before plunging head-first under the water. This was the planned warm-up.
We learned to lake swim—to put our head in and plow through the waves regardless of how high they build up out of the east.
And though we may have shivered and turned blue, the thrill of being in the water and swimming never diminished our enthusiasm because we knew there was a reward at the end of the lesson.
The fastest swim was back to the beach where our towels awaited beside our bikes and we rushed over to the canteen operated by Jim York. The reward was the best fries in town.
He opened at nine in the morning, at the same hour as the lessons began, and stayed open into the evening.
The canteen is gone, as are the swimming docks at the Point.
But youths still bike out and swim off the dock—and this year they swam later than ever.

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