After my dad came home from the South Pacific and World War II, he and a couple of his buddies went together and bought a little fishing cabin on the Ninescaw River outside Wichita, Kansas where we then lived. And Daddy, being a family man, and my mother up for just about anything, we spent a lot of summer weekends together there. Oh, there were times when he and his buddies went alone, but I remember plenty of good times there.
My dad was a storyteller, and a man who enjoyed humor, so this is a story he told a lot over the years, and one I’ve never forgotten it. It began with the men going out after dark and gigging frogs. The women meanwhile tended a fire that would have plenty of hot coals for cooking.
Prepared with heavy duty flashlights and long poled gigs, they disappeared from the cone of firelight off into the night, filled with the low calls of bull frogs. I’d never eaten a frog and wasn’t sure I wanted to. The idea was less than appetizing.
“Gonna have frog legs for supper, gals,” was the cry when they returned. What a relief to know it was only the legs we’d have to choke down. They had a big catch of humongous bull frogs and went to work cleaning them. Soon the women had dozens of the legs which they breaded.
Daddy waited till the grease was bubbling in several deep skillets to call us kids to the fire. “Want you to watch this.” He nodded his head and the women put the legs in the hot grease. Those long jointed legs began to kick and squirm as if they were still alive. I, being a pre-teen girl, let out a scream you could’ve heard miles away. And Daddy laughed, then laughed some more while all of us joined him in watching the dance of the frogs. They tasted pretty good too.
The next day early in the morning, all of us were up and eating breakfast. The men had brought a boat along so they could go out on the river to fish. It was a John boat, powered only by oars. So, my cousin and my Dad, both of whom had served in the Navy, decided they’d go out together to fish. They loaded up all their gear, climbed in and rowed it out to the middle of the river.
We were playing in the sand along the bank, splashing each other and not paying much attention, when both of them began to holler and laugh, simultaneously. We looked up in time to see that boat slowly sinking with those two, at first just sitting there looking around as if they didn’t believe what was happening. As the water rose into their laps they scrambled around trying to rescue fishing poles and gear while they laughed and water slowly closed in over their shoulders. It ended with them making their way to shore as the boat disappeared underwater. It was funny, watching them swim, then stumble out of that river soaked to the skin.
You know, I can’t remember if they ever pulled that boat out or not. But my dad sure did get a lot of mileage out of the story. He told it over and over to anyone who hadn’t heard it. Two navy men who couldn’t keep a boat afloat.
My childhood growing up was filled with such adventures. As I look back on it now I realize how fortunate I was to have my parents and to grow up in what was then a small town in those post-war days when life was so uncomplicated. I vividly recall the first time we went to a drive-in movie, my first real grown up date, when Kansas censored the movie The Outlaw because Jane Russell was too sexy in the bedroom scene, and so many other memories I hope to keep recording here.
I have learned that after spending 80 years on this planet, there’s no such thing as not having “stuff” to write about.