'AW, THAT'S JUST AN OLE BULLFROG!"
THE SUMMER AT THE LAKE
“THAT’S JUST AN OLE BULLFROG...”
We shared our house in Tampa with my aunt and uncle and their two sons; dad and Uncle Guil were best friends who’d married feisty red-headed sisters from the big city, Memphis. The summer I was 10 our two families rented a cabin up at Lake Thomas, about an hour’s drive north of Tampa.
The cabin was built of logs and smelled like the piney woods surrounding it. The road leading to the cabin was a rutted dirt two lane with potholes and the occasional gopher turtle. These turtles lived in holes in the ground. In later years developers would fill right in over them, killing them in their lodges, leading to their inclusion on the state wildlife preservation list.
But in 1945 like a lot of our other Florida wildlife they were plentiful, often out where they could be examined and exclaimed over. The ones we saw on the lake property were about a foot in diameter, 50 years old or more, dad said.
At the end of a small path behind the cabin was an outhouse: another new experience for us kids. I have a vivid memory of trotting out there in the middle of the night and being terrified of a snake in the path. Needless to say I didn’t use the outhouse that night, in fact I hollered loud enough to wake everybody up. Dad and Uncle Guil and the boys came running and cousin John was sent back for the shotgun. He killed a coral snake and several live babies.
At one end of the cabin were bunks, upper and lower, where we kids slept. There must have been a couple beds for the grownups. I don’t remember. At the other end of the cabin, which was about 10 by 20 overall, there was a stove and icebox, plus a large table and several chairs. Out on the porch which ran across the front of the cabin, facing the lake, were a number of rocking chairs and a hand pump, something else new to us kids. Dad showed us how to prime it with a bucket of water, and first thing you knew, up came icy cold water from the well! That was a treat as most water coming out of a faucet in Florida was warm, no matter what time of year it was.
The night of the full moon, dad talked mom into going with him for a romantic interlude in our 12 foot long homemade rowboat. The big yellow moon beckoned as it rose over the dark water, saying, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.”. The ripples gleamed like silk ribbons in the moonlight, and oak moss dangled wispy fingers to stroke mom’s hair.
It was a tranquil setting but mom shivered as she heard pines creaking and moaning in the stiff breeze. She stared around, big blue eyes wide. OOMPH, OOMPH, something said. At first it was near the shore. Gradually it moved closer. OOMPH! OOMPH! Mom was nervous anyway, not knowing how to swim, and that noise really worried her. “What IS that, Ken?” She asked. “Aw, that’s just an ole bullfrog, honey,” dad reassured her.
Seated in the bow of the boat facing dad, mom could see where they’d been. And suddenly she spotted something in the water; small at first, then growing quickly larger and larger, a small hump that became two red eyes glowing in the moonlight. “Ken!” She screeched. “That’s no bullfrog!” Dad glanced behind him, said, “Uh oh”, spun the boat around with a couple of swift turns of the oars, and raced for the shore. They made it back safely and it became one of our favorite stories from that one and only Summer at the Lake.