The burgundy Hudson Hornet maneuvered around ruts and navigated the limestone outcroppings leading to Sweet’s Pond, ten miles south of Rolla, Missouri, on the Sweet family farm. I had been to the farm many times: hiking, riding horses, and swimming. Jay Sweet, like me, was ten years old, and was one of my two closest friends. In the mid-1950s, Rolla boasted an expanding state university, a new hospital, a feisty newspaper, The Rolla Daily News (Jay’s dad was its editor), many new homes under construction, and a major military base. The biggest construction project was building the new US Highway 66 that touched the edge of Rolla as it traversed America.
Jay and I did the things that adolescent boys did. We loved to watch Flash Gordon and The Little Rascals. We spent hours riding bicycles with our other close friend, Joan. We built wooden forts, played in the creek, and on rainy days played Tripoly on Joan’s front porch.
One hot, muggy July morning Jay called.“My dad is taking me to the farm to go swimming. Do ya want to come?” Of course I wanted to go. I loved to go to the farm.
“I will ask my mother.”They picked me up shortly after lunch. We drove up 13th Street, past the Dairy Queen, turned left onto old Highway 66, left again on Nagogomy Road. The first mile was paved. Then the beetle shaped Hudson became covered with choking country road dust. We bounced along as the car stirred up clouds. The road disappeared behind us. Jay and I sat in the backseat with our windows open and wrote our names in the dust settling on the brown leather seats. Mr. Sweet and Tim, Jay’s brother who was three years older, had their front windows down to catch what little cool air blew in.
Once we reached the front gate of the farm, Tim jumped out, unhooked the metal gate topped with barbed wire, and waited as the car passed. He closed the gate and repeated the procedure about one-quarter mile further into the property. Where a farmhouse used to stand we turned up the track to the pond. The Hudson stopped under a large oak tree.
The Sweets had constructed the large pond several years earlier. A spring supplied fresh water, so the water remained clear. We emerged from the car; swimming suits in hand. Mr. Sweet said, “You won’t need those.”
“Why?”Tim was surprised, even angry.
“We’re swimming naked. It’s only us.”
The thought of swimming naked had never occurred to me. I had never swum naked. I was scared but didn’t complain. Jay and I undressed as Tim complained to his father, who relented, “OK, you can wear your jock strap.”I piled my clothes neatly on the back seat of the Hudson next to Jay’s. I watched Tim change. I expected that he would be like us, but he wasn’t. Dark hair grew around his penis; a shadow snaked up to his belly button. His dick was almost as big as his father’s. Tim was handsome, muscular, and tanned. I liked looking at his nude butt in his jock strap.
Jay and I carefully stepped over the sharp flinty stones to the sand beach that had been added the previous summer. Mr. Sweet strapped on life jackets. We walked into the sun-warmed water, slippery as silk. As I sank into the water, the straps of the jacket pulled up against my dick and balls. I loved the feeling. Jay and I swam out to the float, splashed each other, and got into a water fight with Tim, who acted totally annoyed. After a while we sat naked and built sand structures. Mr. Sweet let us wash off without life jackets. I wanted to stay longer but Tim wanted to go. Thus ended my first day of naked swimming; a perfect day, though I never told my mother what we did.
That fall my family moved to another town; I never swam naked in the pond again. The sensation of warm water touching my whole body in the sunshine permanently etched in my brain. As did the vision of Tim.
When I was in sixth grade we moved to Jefferson City. Boy Scouts became an important part of my life. I loved being outdoors. At Boy Scout camp I had more opportunities to watch naked boys: in communal latrines and gang showers. I was shy and self-conscious but lost my inhibitions watching nude boys showering or sitting on the john. If they could, I could too. Soon, I was comfortable being nude with them.
I was not a dry land athlete but I swam well. I progressed through all levels of Red Cross training and taught lifesaving in scouting and in college. That gave me plenty of time in locker rooms with boys. At Jefferson City Senior High School, swimming was an important part of physical education. Gym classes were single-sex, and the coaches told us to swim nude to avoid wet swimsuits hanging around lockers. Thirty naked boys would shyly scamper or proudly saunter up to the pool deck area, depending on how well their manhood was developing. Jocks loved this parade. We picked teams for water polo, tossed the ball up, and let the mayhem begin. Stronger swimmers got the most action, rolling on top of one another. I loved those gym days.
One day, my friend Vic and I returned from the showers. As we toweled off, I said: “Sometimes when I see naked guys I get a hard-on.”
He said: “That means you’re a homosexual.”After that conversation, I never spoke of my feelings about boys. I did not know anything about homosexuality nor did I want to find out. I felt it had to be bad. I knew masturbating was bad; it said so in the Boy Scout Handbook. I was traumatized waking up after a wet dream. It was years before I could reconcile myself to these feelings, but that is another story.
John Lloyd lives with his husband in Pompano Beach, FL in the winter and Mazomanie, WI in the summer; and is the author of many gay love stories that have appeared on various websites. He writes a travel blog and is the author of Leaving Flat Iron Creek.