When I was nine, we moved to Bucktown and I began spending many summer afternoons along the Whitewater River – fishing, swimming or just exploring the woods that grew on its banks. We Bucktown kids assumed that the west side of the river between the 5th Street bridge and the B&O railroad was our territory. The opposite bank, naturally, belonged to the Eastsiders. We never set foot on their bank, nor they ours.

Our mothers were nearly unanimous in their prohibition of our river activities, especially when it came to swimming. Still, by May we had worn a path down the hill behind the National Metals factory, across the area that contained the city’s water pumping stations and through a narrow corn field before disappearing into the thick woods. Once there, we felt secure and free from adult supervision. Neither parents nor girls came to the river; consequently, we always swam naked and thought nothing of it. Embarrassment, the result of social rules, we left at the edge of the woods.

When puberty struck, I, like every boy before me, quit the river for the municipal pool and traded my innocence for a bathing suit. Just as going to the river was part of being a kid, not going was a part of growing up. Still, a decade or so later, after and a stint in the Army and another in college, I was sad to see that the woods had been bulldozed for the cornfield that now expanded to the very edge of the river.

Today, I live about a half-hour drive north of Bucktown in a house overlooking a narrow stream – headwaters of the west branch of the Whitewater River. When I moved here, the stream was shaded by a thin strip of trees on both banks, but over the years, the owner has cut everything so he can plant eight more rows of corn. I don’t think the world needs eight more rows of corn, but I won’t judge. Perhaps the farmer felt that he did.

I was in a sentimental mood last Friday when, feeling my mortality, I asked my wife Michelle if we could drive to the small village where I spent the first eight years of my life. I wanted to look at the graves of my father and grandparents, and to see if the house I was born in was still standing. It was. Since we were so close, I decided to visit the spot where my older brother and I both learned to swim. We used to walk a couple hundred yards to the end of the street, climb over a stile that straddled a fence, then continue along the edge of a cliff high above the Flat Rock River before finally reaching that idyllic spot where the water tumbled about eight feet into a shaded pool.

But today the street doesn’t end where it did; the fence is gone, and there was no access to the path along the cliff. The town has grown and there are houses everywhere. I suppose the waterfall and pool are the same, but the village has become a town with six times its former population. I wondered if more people means we need more corn, or if more corn means we can feed more people. It’s a kind of “chicken and egg” puzzle to consider how each supports the other.

During WWII, the verse of a patriotic song repeated, “We’re 140 million strong!” Today we’re 340 million. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote a book called “The Population Bomb,” which warned of overpopulation and mass starvation. Many scientists disputed it, claiming our food supply is greater than ever. In 1940, Thomas Wolfe published his classic, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

Wolfe’s claim is undisputed.

Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood.