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Every summer, when I was growing up, my family would
spend a week in a cottage on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire. While we
were there, my brother spent a lot of time trying to catch animals.
We could see sun fish, the biggest about 4"
long, while we were swimming. So both of us tried to catch some. We used casting
rods of my father's, with golden spinning lures on the ends. Now using a casting
rod was pretty difficult for us. You would whip the rod back, and as you
were whipping it forward, you'd hit the release button on the reel so the fishing
line would start flying out. Then you had to start winding in the
Sometimes we'd start winding in the line too late,
and the lure would have sunk to the bottom of the lake and gotten snagged
on a rock or log. Then someone would have to swim out to untangle it. This
was a problem, because the whole reason we were fishing was because it was
too cold to swim...
Sometimes we'd hit the release button too soon, while
we were whipping back the rod. We caught a lot of birch trees that way.
This did not please our father at all, having his lures tangled up in the
birch trees... We never did catch any sun fish.
My brother did find some fresh water mussels on the
lake bottom one afternoon. So he kept diving and gathered 2 or 3 dozen of them.
He put them in the water, near the shore, in a protected spot almost
surrounded by rocks. When he went back about 2 hours later to check on them,
they had all escaped! The only signs that the mussels had ever been there were
some paths dug in the sand.
But my brother was great at catching frogs. There
were 2 kinds of frogs at Lake Winnepesaukee. One kind was quite a good size,
its body was about 4" long, and about 2" across, plus the legs. He'd
catch one of these frogs, then flip it over on its back and start stroking it from
the underside of its chin down to its chest. The frog would become paralyzed
for several seconds. (I think he learned this trick from our cousins - they
would do the same thing to their cat Taffy.) After several paralyzed seconds,
the frog would wake up, flip over, and hop away.
The second kind of frog at Lake Winnepesaukee was
much smaller, only about an inch long, plus the legs. But it could jump quite
high for such a tiny thing. It was the color of wet sand. On one Saturday, just
as we were packing up to leave, my brother caught 5 of these tiny frogs.
He really wanted to take them home to show his friends.
Now the other important person in this story was
my mother. She had many wonderful qualities: she was smart and had a good
sense of humor. She was a strong woman would dealt bravely with life. And
she was a good judge of character - she thought I was terrific ;-) But she
was never completely comfortable in the great outdoors, she didn't like
the dirt, she didn't like surprises. You've heard of the expression "A
place for everything and everything in its place"? Well, that was my
mother. And clearly, in her mind, the place for those frogs was in Lake Winnepesaukee,
not the back of her Rambler station wagon...
But my brother pleaded and pleaded, and finally both
my parents agreed that he could take those frogs home to Connecticut.
Now our trip home was probably like most trips home
from vacation. No one was happy that the vacation was over, and the kids quickly
got cranky. "He's on my side!" "No, she's on MY side!"
So a partition of blankets and pillows would be built up to separate us. Then someone would
say, "He's LOOKING at my side."
It was a 5 hour ride home, and my mother would always
drive the middle section, on the Massachusetts Turnpike, to give my father
a break. Now the Massachusetts Turnpike was a busier road than my mother was used
to driving on. So between the general unhappiness, and the comments from the
back seat, and the traffic, my mother was pretty tense.
It was at this moment that my brother decided to
check on his frogs.
"ONE OF MY FROGS IS MISSING!"
My mother let out a big shriek. And all the rest
of the trip, she was somewhat twitchy, always thinking she saw a little
sand-colored frog out of the corner of her eye. She really hated the thought
of it jumping into her hair or down her blouse...
Well, we never did find any trace of that missing
frog - it didn't jump out when we unpacked the car, we never smelled an odd
smell in the Rambler, nor found a shriveled corpse. But you can be sure that
that was the first time, and the last time, my brother ever brought frogs
home from Lake Winnepesaukee.
Copyright © 1996 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.