Well the traditional end of summer, Labor Day, has come and gone. The Graham family spent the holiday swimming at a lake. My wife loves to swim, it is far and away her favorite activity and I participate grudgingly. I am a member of the Greenwood City Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team so I have done my time in the water. I have a wet suit, boots, helmet and even a water knife that I hope I never need for any reason.

I have been through a lot of classes with the department but the swift water classes were the worst by far and our instructor was merciless. Clippinger or Clip as he liked to be called seemed to be a mild mannered man. On the first day we sat in a classroom and learned from a book and from videos about the subject at hand. Clip would smile, laugh and give everyone little nicknames. I have forgotten nickname, blocked it out is probably closer to the truth, due to the immense trauma that followed the classroom portion.

The class was dismissed to eat lunch before heading out to the river, but as he dismissed us Clip warned us to not eat too much and to please return. He explained that a lot of his classes leave for lunch and never come back, this disturbed me and I started to get a pit in my stomach.

When the team finished having lunch we were take to the Ouachita river that, when we left for lunch was quite calm and shallow. Clip informed us that the dam was opened up for us and was now a raging torrent of water. Clip was different now that we were near water. He was now wearing a bandana around his head with wraparound sunglasses and had a soul patch on his chin that I did not notice in the classroom. He also spoke differently on the water screaming things like, “If you don’t keep your legs up, your foot is going to get caught and you are going to die and there is nothing anyone can do to help you!”

Our first assignment was to swim upstream as far as we could this, of course, was nonsense. We jumped in one at a time and were carried a hundred yards or so down river. After all the team members were located and reassembled we were told by Clip, “It is not possible to swim upstream,” a lesson that could be explained in that short statement but then he would not have had the great joy of watching us trudge back for more punishment.

Another example of Clip’s great cruelty was “Water Combat Training”. Basically the students were taken to an area where the water was too deep to touch and made to fight in pairs. “Okay you are the victim and you are the rescuer,” said Clip with an evil smile on his face. “Victim try to drown the rescuer and if I don’t think you are really trying I’m going to jump in and help.” This exercise resulted in blood shed. I accidentally grabbed the light off of my “victims” helmet, which was held by elastic bands, pulled it back and released it. This resulted in a nasty cut on my victim's nose. What was the point of this exercise? “This shows you how important it is to have an adjunct,” said Clip. Basically a floaty to give to a drowning victim so that they don’t try to drown you. I think I could have learned this in the classroom without disfiguring an innocent human being..

Now that I think about it maybe I don’t really dislike the water, I am just afraid of having to fight someone for the amusement of Clip again.