The Four Hole Swamp

Author: Nancy Stevens


You can’t find firm footing in a swamp, but life rooted in God stands firm    Proverbs 12:3


My grandparents had a cotton farm near the Four Hole Swamp in South Carolina. We had moved up North for my dad’s work but came South every summer. Our Uncle Kelly took us fishing for catfish in the Four Hole Swamp. He thought we’d gone a bit soft living up North and took it upon himself to toughen us up. I was four and already a bit of a worrier.

The swamp was dark even on a bright day. The water was black like coal. Cypress trees grew thick, straight up out of the water. Spanish moss hung low from the branches. It was hard to see the sky. Humidity hung like a drape. Gnats swarmed. We fished out of small flat tin boats. There was no main channel. It was easy to get lost. It was too hot to wear clothes, so we fished in our underwear. We saw no one. The swamp was strangely quiet and still.

Uncle Kelly terrified me with his advice.

“Don’t tip the boat ‘cause the (water) moccasins can slip in under ya feet.”

“Don’t get blood on ya hands (from the night crawlers) when ya baitin’ the hook.”

“Don’t let ‘em (the catfish) bite ya…they can stick ya real good.”

“Hold the net steady or they’ll jump out at ya.”

I was beside myself with fear … but I knew better and kept fishing. In those days, parents didn’t worry much about their kids being scared. Scared was just part of growing up. The only way to get out of the swamp was to catch a fish.

I have revisited the swamp countless times in my mind. I still feel the fear, but I remember the stillness of that place too. In the dark places of my life, I try to remember to look for the stillness. Sometimes I find it and sometimes I don’t. In the stillness, there is peace and knowing. In the stillness there is God.

Prayer:  When darkness and fear surround me, let me find peace in the stillness of creation.

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