Mack was one of those people who seemed to drift through life without a care in the world. When I first met him he was dating this really good looking woman but he broke up with her because she was too demanding. Mack was adrift. He wanted nothing more than to live in the moment and enjoy life. He was a college kid and his parents seem happy to front his lifestyle and his one or two classes a day habit. Mack was intelligent, smart even, but he had something to do; nothing.
Mack’s nothing was a little more than the nothing enjoyed by others like him. He went out and painted railroad crossings on county roads where there were no railroads. He painted some odd looking symbols on an abandoned bridge and started a front page rumor in Valdosta about Satanists taking over the area. The “sacrificed” animals turned out to be deer carcasses tossed out by some hunters. But Mack didn’t care about any of this.
One thing Mack was good at doing was finding the long way to anywhere. Mack wore the scenic route out. And this was what started my Sunday morning because I remember the circuitous path he took to get to a place called Blue Springs. Well, I don’t remember it at all, really. I just remember bits and pieces of it. I was in the middle of these memories this morning and I decided to try to get there from here.
I got into the truck and started driving without looking at a map or trying to remember exactly where I was going. Once I got past Nankin I would be heading South on a road I never traveled before, and that was fine. I needed to get out. Something had to be different this morning, even if it meant channeling Mack. The road came and went and my mind began to try to piece together the way there and back again.
After the Satanists thing Mack seemed to think it was his mission in life to be strange and it wore thin after a while. The world was changing. The late nights drinking and smoking pot were beginning to be something law enforcement frowned upon when it came to driving. There for a very long while there were no real effort to keep people from driving while so stoned they saw unicorns playing with bottle rockets but there were more and more people and more and more cars on the road. I thought about some of the things we did and I wonder how we got out alive.
Back in the 80’s the springs were more or less just there. It wasn’t a park and it wasn’t patrolled. Divers would be diving in the springs while the rest of us jumped off the ledges above the springs. It was frigid water free for all but I never saw much trouble there. There was a lot of drinking and a lot of pot being smoked, but nothing to fret about. Now there’s a gate and a gatekeeper and it cost five bucks to get in. This is a real park now, and it is actually very nice.
They did a lot of landscaping, put up fences, made trails, and took the wildness out of the place enough to make it more family friendly. The park ranger there told me that was their aim. “We got rid of the riff raff and their drinking” she said and I nearly told her I was one of those people once. And even for an early Sunday morning there is a group out under one of the shelters. There are little kids running around.
The water is as cold as I remember it being. It comes gushing out of a cave the size of a large truck and the water is pure and clear blue. The current tugs at me and close to where the spring runs into the river I have to swim hard to keep up with it, and get past it. I dive down to where it is deep and look up at the sky. This has not changed a bit. The thrill of swimming in running water will never die.
I pop up to the surface to find two kids watching me. “Cold! Cold!” they say and they seem delighted there is someone in the water. This is evidence they will present to their parents that the water is not too cold be swam in. It does have that spring water bite to it but I like it. I like the idea of getting a workout and my body not sweating over it. I like the power of the current and the clearness of the water.
There isn’t enough sunlight to warm me or dry me properly and a bus load of people arrive. They all crowd around the wooden walkways and talk about how cold the water is but none of them dare it on such a mild day. I dive in from the walkway and head towards the bottom again, angling against the current, scaring fish away in front of me. This, too, has not changed. I was always the first one in and the last one out of water. I miss the days I spent in water and I wonder how I lost that.
I take the first left on the way back and wander a back road. There’s an odd looking church out there and a trailer who has massive concrete lions guarding their driveway. I take the first dirt road off of the Madison Highway and deliberately miss my turn. I wind up on a dirt road in Florida that is blocked by loggers (on a Sunday!) and have to backtrack to get back out again.
It doesn’t matter to the spring, or to me anymore, where Mack is. He’s part of the current that headed downstream a quarter of a century ago. In time, I will pass from memory and someone else will swim, and write, about the spring. But Mack-like, I lived in the moment, swam in the clear blue water, and a Sunday was good.