I’m my last post, “Bats”, I spoke a little about the famous Swamp that was a relatively short distance away from our summer bungalow in Lake Hopatcong , NJ. I believe I stated; “more about that later”; well, here is the “later.”
The field in which we were terrorized by crazed, lethal bats was bordered on one side by low marshy ground. In many places the murky, muddy water stood 3-4 feet deep.
If you recall , the field was directly across the road from our bungalow and we would frequent this area in the evening to play our survival game with the bats. As I trust you remember, the bats were always the clear victors.
The early morning was the time to brave “the swamp. “We would cross this same field and walk to its eastern border where the Swamp stood. It held a definite fascination for a small group of young boys looking for fun and adventure.
Bordered by trees and brush, for city boys, this was the Everglades. The area in and around the Swamp was teeming with wild life; birds, insects, reptiles and even some small mammals.
I think the biggest attraction about the Swamp was the perceived, and, at times, very real dangers associated with it. The real danger was clear;one of us could fall into a deep spot in the murky water and drown. The ground under the water was soft and muddy, and, while not quick sand, it could easily suck down a young, panicked kid. The rest of us would be no help as we would have been running home thinking of ways to make sure losing little Ray was really ” not our fault”.
We loved trying to catch frogs. Not to hurt them, but just to catch them… you know, the thrill of “the hunt. “However, most of the time the frogs were somewhere in the water; thus, by logical conclusion, we would have to wade into the muck to catch them. There was the very real danger of one of us wading into a deep spot and never surfacing as the frogs watched in amusement.
The perceived dangers were pretty humorous. First , there were the Dragonflies. Bobby, the very same Bobby that started the myth that had us terrified of “Bats in the hair”, had us terrified of the beautiful dragonfly. After listening to Bobby weave his tale of terror, we were certain that these creatures were demons from the pits of hell whose sole purpose was to sting us so that we would die slowly and painfully. The dragonflies’ stinger was larger and more painful than even the dreaded wasp, or so we believed.Therfore, as the dragonflies danced around in the morning air, one would witness 4-5 young boys running helter-skelter to avoid the “sting of death”.
I so love dragonflies today! The beauty of them swarming around the yard in the early morning is simply wonderful and I so enjoy when they land in your outstretched hand for a brief respite. Never once a “sting of death”.
The other perceived danger was , of course, the frogs from the Biblical plagues upon Egypt. While we loved the chase and the thrill of catching them, we were cursed with what happens to one who holds onto frog for too long. A quick catch and release was fine, but, if, God forbid , you held one too long you were doomed to a life of hideous deformity. I’m not sure who started this one, but I don’t think I can blame Bobby. Like with the “Bats in the Hair”, our parents bought into this one as well. Many times I recall the warning words of Mom or Dad; “don’t hold frogs…. you’ll get warts.”
Yes , warts of biblical proportions. If you got warts from frogs , by comparison, the Elephant Man would have looked like Brad Pitt.
So, catch frogs we would, but we would release them and then “wash” our hands in the dirty water before the deadly secretions of the frog took its toll upon us. I sometimes believe a very wise frog started the wart story.
Yes, the Ol Swamp holds many a dear memory and I smile thinking back to our “dangerous” adventures. As we headed out for our morning of fun, I can still hear Mom warning me; “watch out for your little brother! ”
I know if anything had happened to Rob at the Swamp, I would have had to blame Bobby.