Devil's Hole by The Muuj https://www.flickr.com/photos/themuuj/with/2681983180/
Rusty Williams
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It’s the Pits

Before backyard pools, municipal swimming pools, and water parks, many Dallasites went for summer dips in the water-filled gravel pits surrounding town. The pits had crumbly banks, uncertain depths, and were filled with chilly rainwater or seepage from small springs. It wasn’t difficult for inexperienced swimmers — and there were few experienced swimmers early in the twentieth century — to find themselves in trouble on the water.

In 1923 George Watkins drove his extended family of six to a gravel pit a mile west of Letot for a summer afternoon of wading and “bathing.” Watkins’ wife and sister-in-law were the first to enter the water. Holding hands, the women waded into the gravel pit a short distance before stepping off an underwater ledge. Neither woman could swim, and they yelled as they floundered in the water. Watkins waded into the pit to pull them to shore. Perhaps stepping off the same ledge, Watkins suddenly disappeared underwater and never resurfaced. Another member of their party pulled the two women to safety, but it took several hours to recover George Watkins’ body from thirty feet of water.

A year earlier, the family of Rylie farmer William Burns went to the Ridgell pits, formed by removing gravel for construction of locks and dams on the nearby Trinity River. The pit was known as the “Ridgell Resort” to families in the area. After a picnic on the ground with several other families, Burns’ two oldest daughters, nineteen-year-old Jesse Lee and sixteen-year-old Grace went for a swim in the pit. After an hour the girls were exhausted and in water over their heads. Burns heard his daughters calling for help and he dove into the pit fully clothed to rescue them. Bystanders saw Burns reach the girls and turn to swim back, but the three sank beneath the surface and never emerged. Police later speculated that it was his heavy farm boots that dragged him under and caused the deaths of the father and his two daughters.

A century later, these water-filled pits still surround Dallas, largely out of sight of passersby. People still swim in them. And people still drown.

 

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