On a Wild Swimmer

Skinny dippin’ (yes, I purposely dropped the “g” because Alabama) used to be much more acceptable than it is now. People in other parts of the world outside the US refer to it as “wild swimming” or some such. This is about one older fellow who liked to swim in the buff. He took up the practice as a way to practice better health and to try to stay in shape as he aged. It worked to a degree–he lived into his 80s, so he did something right.

Anyway, this fellow, whom we will call John, would take one and all with him on his swims. When his sons came home from college, they’d go. When he had visitors at his house, he’d take them. When business associates asked to meet with John, he’d suggest they take the business down to the river where they’d leave their clothes in a pile and strike out into the water the way God made ’em.

One warm day in June, 1825, John and one of his sons and an employee of his went down to the river for a dip. John decided they should take a small boat, almost a canoe, across the river and then have the employee bring the little boat back. And so, they set out to cross the stream.

But halfway across, John realized the canoe leaked. And a wind blew up that caused ripples on the water of the river. The erstwhile skinny dippers jumped out of the sinking boat. The problem was that their clothes were so heavy as they filled with water, that John soon found himself in danger of drowning. Nowhere near shore, the older man realized the error of wearing his clothing as he struggled to make it out of the river alive.

Now, somehow, John made it back to shore. The old man lay on the bank and gasped for air. His son ordered the employee to run for help and get a carriage to take John home, to get some blankets and a fresh set of clothes so the old man wouldn’t catch cold. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, although John lost a waistcoat and one of his shoes; his employee lost his pocketwatch and some other items.

You’d think that the close call would make John reconsider his hobby of skinny dipping, but it didn’t damper his enthusiasm one bit. Sure enough, it wasn’t too long before President John Quincy Adams was back wild swimming in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.