Up the Lake was situated deep in the mountainous woods of NY, allowing many local beasts to leave eternal impressions on those of us who resided there.
Classic human trauma is usually associated with spiders and snakes. Naturally, these were frequently encountered. Spiders tended to have time shares in all of the living quarters, and a snake once had a regular enough pattern in its life to earn the nickname "Five O'clock Charlie" for its daily aquatic crossings of the swimming area.
The classics were only just the tip of the iceberg, though.
The small rodent, which holds the title of the other most common panic inducing creature in humans, also taught us several lessons:
My Grandfather learned he was incorrect in telling someone that mice cannot climb, as one ran across the top beam in the kitchen as he finished his declaration.
My Dad learned that no matter how much you plug up the little holes, the mice can still get in if the floor has pulled away from the back wall by more than three inches.
Nick learned to look inside barbecues and umbrellas before opening them for the first time in the summer. Not performing this pre check allowed the former mousey residents to run down his arm, and allowed a delightful series of noises and unprintable words to run out of Nick.
Finally, I learned that the sticky traps are not more humane, because they leave you the choice of throwing the cute little animal off the mountain to starve, or whacking it with a shovel.
This makes a loud, messy, staccato "eep!"
Um…so I’ve heard.
The magic of up the Lake however, has caused almost every person to develop a unique relationship with one odd animal or another.
Out of fairness, or narrative clarity, or self humiliation, I suppose I should start with myself.
Apparently, as a child, my mom had enough frogs thrown at her to prevent any happy bonding from occurring. This manifested itself in subtle ways, such as causing her to perform an Olympic level leap…
over my aunt,
when presented with one of the emerald beauties.
Enter me, a confused two year old standing nearby as my mother, poised to bequeath me her psychosis, knocked over a tree stump behind the bedroom. Although other, so called “witnesses” claim an average sized frog hopped out which caused my mother to give a startled yell and jump back, this is not the way my two year old mind was permanently impacted by the events.
An amphibian clearly large enough to star in its own Toho blockbuster leaped forth, causing my mother to run screaming all the way to the far side of Jupiter, abandoning me to be stared down by the horrid beast. This conveniently scarred my young mind, way down deep in that primal, hunger, instinct, watch football part.
Therefore, while the thinking cortex of my brain identified a harmless aquatic tetrapod, my subconscious fired off enough adrenalin to jump start a narcoleptic's convention.
The only good side effect was being able to use myself as a reference in several papers for advanced level Psychology classes. It also still leads to the occasional humorous moment.
However, I have almost completely replaced my youthful fearful reactions with violent ones (so don't get any smart ideas), and usually can direct my landing - after what the uninitiated may interpret as a startled initial leap - to be fatal to the little buggers. Also, the somewhat less than macho yelp has been mostly eliminated.
Mom has also learned to deal with her phobia through judicious use of a Thor like slam of a long handled shovel, punctuated with a, “HA!” that echoes through the night air.
Her lethality became so well known that her sister attempted to save one from her shovelly wrath by tossing it “to safety” off the path. The impact it made with a tree brought my Aunt into the kitchen on the verge of tears for her good intentions.
One interesting adult encounter featured me in the role of “less than ideal protector.”
When my cousin Lauren was a teenager, she mentioned being watched by a devil frog around our campsite. We got used to going with the flow of statements like this from anyone up there. Separation from civilization does things to people.
She wished to go retrieve some evening essentials from the cabin, and didn't want to face the demon alone; she asked me, and her similarly teenaged friend Ashley to return with her.
Having established ourselves as the absolute worst possible entourage to meet a frog from the pits of hell, we went on our way.
As we reached the space in the old rock wall that served as one entrance to the campsite, there sat a toad blocking the way - easily as big as my head.
It was dark, OK?
Based on its appearance at night, Lauren's original contention, and a recently aired episode of South Park, we decided that it must be "the Nocturnal Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka of Satan.” We used this title as often as possible over the weekend, mostly to annoy people.
As usual with us, it was very effective.
Tossing a couple poorly aimed rocks (due to the fact that I wasn't looking directly at it) proved ineffective. My blind aim was not aided by the fact that every time I threw one, the girls would scream and attempt to jump on my shoulders. Its immobility during this period of chaos and confusion led us to the realization that it was a stubborn one.
It should be noted that the last stubborn frog on record was down the Lake when “Little Rich” was appropriately still little. All the kids were throwing pebbles at it, but it refused to move until Rich picked up one of the auxiliary blocks from Stonehenge. With a determined statement of, "I'll make him jump," he encased the creature deeply enough in the mud to be toasty warm from the magma at the Earth's core.
Finally, when we realized our warty friend wasn't leaving before dawn, and refusing to give up the quest for flashlights, bug spray and sweatshirts, I started lobbing boulders at it, like the Cyclops attacking Odysseus. (How’s that for a literate analogy amidst this mass of stupidity?)
My efficiency increased by using Ashley's brother Joe, attracted by the slightly higher than normal levels of screaming, as an artillery spotter.
Finally, one rock smacked into the stone the toad was on with a loud crack, placing el frogo in a granite Panini. This brought much excitement to Joe, as he chattered happily, something about twitching and eyeballs, I believe.
Hey, you all hacked 'em up in biology class, so cut me some slack.
We then safely entered the cabin, retrieved the Lake Evening Essentials Collection, and walked back to Ashley and Joe's, making sure to take the long way around the cabin, just in case.
The next morning, armed with a shovel as close in length to the Union Pacific railroad line as I could find, I lifted the new rock pile, intending to clean up the probable mess. There was absolutely no sign of the Nocturnal Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka of Satan.
DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!