Kate Dudding: My Brother's Frogs

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My brother and me, second summer at the lake

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 line.

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.

My brother and me, fifth summer at the lake

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...

Mom, first summer at the lake

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.

 


Kate Dudding (518) 383-4620
8 Sandalwood Drive kate@katedudding.com
Clifton Park, NY 12065-2700 USA
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