By Robin Smith
(excerpted from “The Lumsden Beach Chronicles”)
At the Lumsden Beach it was well known to all children that you could not swim for an hour after eating. If you did, you would get a cramp and drown. Our mothers assured us of this and watched carefully to see that no one entered the lake until after that hour had passed.
We didn’t like sitting in the hot prairie sun with the lake so near, but we believed in cramps too. There were two different kinds, leg and stomach, (The result of each was the same. You drowned.) There was much speculation about both, however. The “Stomach Cramp” was the deadlier. It killed you outright before you had the chance to drown. This involved stopping your heart, tying your guts in a knot, and the like. No one could save you. Not even your mother. (All summer we watched to see if anyone actually got one.)
Leg cramps were a lot easier to understand. The mechanics made sense. As you swam along, not having waited for the hour, one or both of your legs suddenly stopped working and froze, bent up against your stomach. You could not swim any more and, naturally, you drowned.
In this case, a question arose. How deep did the water have to be for you to drown? We knew you could not drown unless the water was “over your head”. That was the crucial clue. But with your legs bent and frozen against your stomach, the water did not have to be very deep to be over your head. And in water over your head you either swam or drowned. Therefore, you could drown a few feet away from where the little kids were making sand castles and watching the trains going up the “other side” to Silton.
There were other practical questions. How long did it take to get a cramp? Say you had just eaten and went into the water. Would it happen sooner than if you waited fifteen minutes? How about twenty? Did it have to be exactly an hour? Could you cheat? Would the cramp be worse or happen faster if you ate a lot? If you ran in, just to cool off, not to swim, and intended to run right out again, would you make it back to the shore? Was it the water that caused cramps? Did drinking count? How about wading?
Such was the nature of the debate on the shores of Last Mountain Lake. We knew as well that we could never answer these questions, simply because the only people who knew for sure . . . were dead!
But, we believed in cramps.