Swallows and Amazons

When I was a kid I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks every summer on the Southern Massachusetts coast, near where my father grew up, in Fall River. That's when I learned about "messing about with boats" as Ratty says in The Wind in the Willows, and could spend my time exploring a tidal river that leads to the sea, and has strong currents, tides and sandbars. This is also where I first read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. This is the first book in a series about a group of English children who meet up in the summer and sail their small boats and have endless adventures. The larger family of four kids are the "Swallows" because their boat is named "Swallow" and the two sisters they meet are the "Amazons" (and yes, their boat was named "Amazon").  I loved this book and one of the best things about it was that it was part of a series, so once you got started there were many more adventures ahead. I was the kind of kid who practiced knots, learned how to splice rope and always carried a jack knife. I also made maps of our river, modeled on the one on the endpapers of Swallows and Amazons as well as some of the other books by Ransome. I wish that every one of my books had a map on the endpapers. So far, I haven't been able to fulfill that dream, but someday I hope I will. I did have a little boat that I could row, and then later, sail with my father and friends I met up with by the river every summer. I never became as good a sailor as the kids in the books, but I loved making maps. I would draw them on a sheet of plain paper, then dip the whole thing into a pan of cold black tea, to make it look like old parchment. Then I would sit out on the front porch and burn the edges, so it would look really old. There is something about mapping, and map making, and the books that I read as a child made their own maps inside of me. 

swallow map
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