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By Dan Beard

ohb242.gif (17295 bytes)
Fig. 242.-- The American Boy's Wooden Swimming Master.
Fig. 243 Shows the Bow-Line Knot.

Every boy's book, with the exception of the "American Boy's Handy Book," has a chapter telling boys how to learn to swim. This was left out of the "Handy Book" because the author believed no boy could learn to propel himself in the water while sitting in the house reading about it. Such a chapter appeared to him very much like the old bit of advice to "hang your clothes on a hickory limb, but don't go near the water."

Still there are many practical hints that will not be amiss to those who are already good swimmers, and who are good-natured enough to devote some of their time to their more backward or less fortunate companions. There are thousands and thousands of boys in this vast country who have never seen big rivers, like the Ohio and Mississippi, or beheld the broad ocean, with its white sandy beach and small quiet bays, or the great blue lakes, and whose only chance to swim is in the deep holes of some small stream, a mill-pond, or small lake.

Beginners are just as liable to meet with serious accidents in such places as in the large rivers or the salt sea. For it must be remembered it is not the width of the water, but its depth, that troubles a beginner. Fig. 242 shows a simple contrivance that will make it absolutely safe for any lad who cannot swim to go "over his head," as the boys call it when they enter deep water.

It will require work to make one of these swimming masters ; but the machine, of any use, is yet to be invented that does not need work to build, and there is nothing in the construction of a "swimming master" that a crowd of boys could not accomplish in a few hours.

How to Build a Swimming Master.

ohb244.gif (3040 bytes)
Fig. 244
Post for the Wooden Swimming Master.

Dig a hole about three feet deep on the brink of the swimming pool. Plant in this a good stout post, six or seven feet long, and see that the earth is packed solidly around the post, so that it will stand firm and immovable, This is called the "ducking Post " (Fig. 244). Next select a long pole for the sweep, the length of which will depend upon the extent of the swimming hole. With an auger or hand-drill, bore a hole in the top of the post and a trifle larger one through the sweep, at such a distance from the butt, or big end, of the latter, as will allow the small end to reach well out over the deep water (Fig. 245).

ohb245.gif (1083 bytes)
Fig. 245.
Sweep for Wooden Swimming Master.

The principle of this machine is a very old one: it is the model of a well, sweep of ancient times. Even today a few such sweeps may be seen in old-fashioned farm-yards.

Make a good long hickory or ash peg with a groove in the end that enters the stump. The peg must be large enough to fit tightly in the post. Pour some water in the post-hole and drive the peg home. The groove will allow the water to escape and the water will make the wood swell and hold the peg tightly in place.

To the end of the sweep lash a good strong rope, starting with a clove hitch (see Index) and binding the rope around the sweep. In this case, however, you allow one end to hang down in place of cutting it off. Place the sweep on the ducking post so that the ash peg holds it in place. At the butt end of the sweep nail some boards in the form of a rude box (Fig. 242).

At this point let

One of the Good Swimmers

strip and swim out to the hanging end of the rope, fasten it into a loop with a bowline knot which will not slip (see Fig. 243). Before drawing the knot tight he should slip the loop over his head and under his arms, making the rope of sufficient length for the weight of his body suspended in the water to lift the butt of the sweep a couple of feet clear of the ground.

While the swimmer occupies this position the other boys must load up the box at the end of the sweep with stones or any heavy material they may have, until the weight of the swimmer and the weight of stones make an even balance.

Ready for the Novice

When this is done and all the good swimmers have tested it, the small end of the sweep may be swung around and the novice may slip the noose over his head and under his arms and bravely push out into deep water. Here he can flounder and splash after the manner of all beginners until he is tired, or until he learns the trick of propelling himself through the water and of keeping his head above it,

Should the novice be stricken with a panic and try to climb the rope, the weight of his body when lifted out of the water will bring the end of the pole down and he will still have only his head above water. But should he be one of the rattle-brained boys, a boy whose mind is like a badly trained dog that refuses to obey its master in times of emergency, he must not be allowed to work himself into a state of panic, for be can drown even while the "swimming master's" rope is around him. Such a lad needs watching, but most of all he needs just this sort of training to give him command over himself.

In Case of Fright

When a beginner is seized with fright one of his comrades most rest his weight on the stone box and slowly swing the novice in shore and allow him to regain his composure at leisure.

Never try to frighten a timid boy; it is not only cruel, but you may spoil the " makings " of a good fellow. Some of the bravest soldiers the world ever knew were badly frightened at their first battle, and, no doubt, many a expert swimmer and noted life-saver was seized with terror when first he found himself in deep water. A boy who, because be knows how to swim himself, will try to duck or terrify a beginner has no business to associate with good fellows and should be avoided by them.

Hints for the Beginner

It is best not to try to swim immediately on swinging out into the deep water. Allow your legs to sink if they will and your arms to hang idly down--the rope will keep your head above water. In this pose loll around awhile until you become accustomed to your surroundings and gain confidence in the sturdy wooden "swimming master" who holds you. This is of vital importance, for without confidence in your ability to keep your head above water you can never learn to swim. Even if you put in two or three days in floating around it will not be time lost, and when you begin to experiment with kicking and striking out with your hands and arms you will learn the more readily because you are not retarded by the fear that perhaps your head may go under water for a moment. What if it does? You will come up smiling in place of gasping or shouting for help.







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Adam Poe Elevator ] Breast Stroke ] Chump's Raft ] Frog Kick ] Grapevine Cable ] Hints on Swimming ] Kicking ] Slippery Slide ] Spring Boards ] Suspension Bridge ] Swimming Hole ] Tub Races ] Water Bladder ] Water Swing ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.