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It's always best to get the lay of the land

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By W.B. Evans

You can get into trouble when you don’t know the territory.

Two brothers who lived down the street, their cousin from Arch Street, and me had a fishing trip all figured out.

Now, this fishing hole boasted a right nice cabin where we could all spend the night.

The oldest member of our quartet did the driving and as planned, we arrived just before sundown.

With a little daylight remaining, while burning a few hot dogs for supper, the others started talking about eating frog legs. I had never heard of such a thing and couldn’t figure out why anybody would eat frog legs. I got kinda queasy. Maybe it was the hot dogs.

“Nothing’s better than fried frog legs,” one of ’em said. “They taste better than chicken.”

As the sun slowly disappeared, we got in a canoe and set off across the pond. In the back of my mind, I wondered if frog gigging with a .22-caliber rifle and a flashlight was something akin to snipe hunting and if I was to be the butt of another joke.

Being frog aficionados, we figured keeping to the banks where cattails grew, was the best place to scout up a mess of hoppers.

I felt like the odd man at the skunk works. I didn’t have a flashlight and they wouldn’t let me do any of the shooting. I just sorta sat in the canoe and watched these frogmen at work.

One of the brothers, would shine the old light and scare up some croakers, while the other one would shoot them. Their cousin would then drag them to the canoe and scoop them out of the water.

After a box of .22-caliber long rifle bullets was spent, we ended up with about a dozen keepers and paddled back to the cabin.

Using a dull fish scale knife, the legs were separated from the body, washed off and placed in a skillet of hot grease.

You know, frog legs really do dance when they are frying.

Finally, I got the chance to taste our bounty. I had some doubts but held my  breath and tried one.

Hey... these frog legs taste pretty good, I thought. Of course, it didn’t take many of them to fill me up.

That’s when I got to thinking, which happens every time you do something you figure your folks wouldn’t approve of.

I doubted very seriously if Mama and Daddy would’ve been happy over me sitting in a canoe in the middle of a pond at pitch dark with a rifle being fired over and over again by some boys not much older.

“Hey look-a-here what I got,” one of the brothers yelled as he brought out a bag of marshmallows. That jolted me back into reality, but I still remembered my folks telling me to stay at the cabin and “not to be out joy-riding and causing foolishness in a car” that night.

We were really having a good time around the fire, eating frog legs and marshmallows and swapping ghost stories and such when a startling, terrible crash echoed across the property interrupting things.

Forgetting my parents’ advice to stay put, I lighted out for the noise.

I was running the frog legs and my legs off in the dark trying to keep up with the threesome who had already outdistanced me.

Suddenly, I ran smack-dab into a barbed wire fence, which grabbed me, tore my pants and ripped a deep gash in my thigh.

Bless Pete, I was bleeding like a stuck pig, but I kept on running until I got to the scene of a wreck.

There, I ran headlong into something worse than a fence; a county deputy sheriff.

“Boy, you a passenger in this wreck?” the deputy asked, not recognizing me in the dark.

“No sir,” I said.

The deputy looked me over to make I was OK and asked my name.

“Who’s your daddy, son?” he said.  

I swallowed hard. I had a terrible feeling, worse than my throbbing leg.

I told him. I was in big trouble.

I knew as soon as the deputy got back to the courthouse and told Lancaster Sheriff Major Evans that “your boy was at car wreck with blood dripping down his leg” that barbed wire wasn’t going to be the only thing tearing into my pants. 

Like always – and as I still do – I made another one of my many silent prayers asking for relief from above.

When we got back to the cabin, I was doctored up and some bandages were applied to my thigh. The gash looked worse than it felt.

At the time, I was more worried about Daddy finding out than my painful wound.

The next morning, I hobbled back to where I ran into those strands of barbed wire.

Turns out, the three fishing buddies ran to the wreck right through an old gate opening and never got a scratch.

I was blessed; that was one prayer that got answered, too. When I got home the deputy hadn’t mentioned my part of the great pond wreck to Daddy.

I never mentioned it, either.

Afterward, I came to the conclusion that it’s a good idea to know the lay of the land. You gotta know the territory.

It would be a couple of years before I returned to that pond. I made sure to never again chase after loud noises in the dark of night, no matter what.

I still have the scar to prove it, too.