I've come to the delusion that all things happen for no other reason than to keep us on our toes. That's all well and good if you happen to be a ballerina, or if you just happen to have a fetish about wearing a tutu.
....A few nights ago when I was unable to post due to Blogger problems, I was fooling around with "Paint Works" on my desktop. The image above is one the products of that evening. Naturally, no one would ever mistake it for a Manet or a Monet, but there was something about it that I liked. It was deja vu and a Kodak moment all wrapped in one package.
....It was in that spot, or at least in a spot eerily similar to the image above, that I stood one night at the river's edge. I must have been an eight-year-old lad. That night, I was out "bull-froggin." For those uneducated about bull froggin, the best time to catch them is at night. They float on the surface near the riverbank, usually underneath some branches overhanging the water. A full grown bullfrog has two enemies, man and the snapping turtle. While floating their eyes are half-submerged, which allows to see above and below the water at the same time.
....The most successful "bull-froggers" operate from a boat and use a spear-like implement known as a gig. With the aid of a light, they quietly approach the unsuspecting frog from behind. Most bull-froggers hunt the frogs as a means to supplement their incomes. It seems cruel to me now, but back in 1957 in Appalachia, few people were concerned with such matters. I don't remember if it was considered black market then, or if it is today, but there was a demand for frog legs.
....The least successful bull froggers, like me back then, plied the trade from dry land. Whether I was bull froggin', fishing, or swimming, the scene above was just like my favorite spot. About three feet from waters of the Elk River, there stood a thirty-foot Sycamore tree. The spot was about a hundred yards from the confluence of the smaller Sandy River. The deposits from the Sandy formed an area of shoals and a small island. We often waded from the Sycamore to the island where we would find an ample supply of small "crawl-dabbers," or cray fish as the more sophisticated tended to call them. The ones about an inch long made ideal bait for large and small mouth bass and muskies.
....On that evening, however, I wasn't looking for fishing bait. I was looking for frogs. One good-sized bull could fetch a generous five dollar bill. I don't suppose you have any idea how much money that was to this eight-year-old back then - it was like a ka-zillion dollars! We used to think of money in the Fifties in terms of how much penny candy you could buy with it.
....Above I mentioned that a full grown bullfrog has two enemies, man and the snapping turtle. Well, a boy also has two enemies, man and a snapping turtle. That fact is especially true on a river bank after sunset.
....Creeping ever so slowly from the shadows of the Sycamore, I raised my stick, and at the river's edge I was about to knock a large specimen senseless. It happened so fast, that to this day I'm still not quite sure just what the sequence of the events were. Apparently at the very instant my stick was hurtling home, a large snapping turtle had chosen that moment to attack. There was the splash of my stick and a violent thrashing in the water. The frog was gone. I had missed. Little did I know, the turtle had missed too.
....Suddenly, I felt something strike my foot. I screamed in terror. A snapping turtle, one of the biggest ones I had ever seen, had clamped its mighty jaws onto my foot! Only because I am able to look back on the incident, can I describe the next few minutes as both tense and funny. On that night, however, only tense was applicable.
....I found my self running in circles, the turtle not about to loosen its grip on my foot. I ran headlong into a branch that hung down at about eye level. I recoiled from that and crashed hard into the trunk of the Sycamore. There is an important fact that one should consider here, a Sycamore, or any tree for that matter, does not yield to the body of an eight-year-old lad. It was the body of the lad that had to yield.
....Knocked for a loop as I was, I managed to stay on my feet. I don't know if anyone ever heard my screams that night, but if they did, none came to my rescue. I was in tears. I was imagining that two or three of my toes were already in that turtle's gullet and it was still hungry. In blind terror, I tripped on one of the tree's roots, and found myself flying through space. I was propelled face first into the river. My face stopped my flight as it landed on the rocky bottom beneath only three feet of water.
....Somehow my shoe, the one wearing a determined snapping turtle, had come off. I struggled to my feet and got out of the water like I'd been fired from a cannon. Shaking like a leaf, not because I was wet and cold but because of the ordeal, I collapsed on the river bank. Fighting back the tears I took a deep breath before I finally worked up the nerve to look at my bare foot. I was certain that more than my right Keds was missing.
....To my amazement, my foot was all there. There were no missing toes. There was no blood. ...And there was no tennis shoe. More importantly, there was no turtle! I looked up and saw my shoe floating at the edge of the bank. The toe was facing me. With a sigh of relief I reached for it and pulled it ouf the water. The turtle was no where to be seen.
....I was fascinated as I inspected the shoe. There was triangular shaped wedge missing from the canvas material. The rubber sole appeared to be intact. I eventually figured out what had happened, and how I had walked away with the same complete foot that I had when I'd arrived at my "favorite spot."
....Through some miracle or just plain dumb luck, the turtle had clamped its jaws in such a way that its beak and lower jaw met between my big toe and its nearest neighbor. I don't know if there was some kind of reflex reaction that had forced the toes to separate enough or what. All I know is that they did.
....Coming through safe and in one piece, did little to humor my parents though. I escaped the "killer" snapping turtle that night, but I fell victim to a whuppin'. The irony of my ordeal was that I was punished more for the wrecked tennis shoes, brand new by the way, than for being near the river after dark in the first place.
Yes, the scene depicted above evoked a lot of memories of a long time ago. I guess Blogger could be thanked in some small measure. It was only because of Blogger's problems that I was playing around with Paint Works and revisited the river's edge.