What did kids do for fun in the summer before computers? Last week, Gloria read a story from her childhood during our writing class. It was so entertaining, I wanted to share with you:Â
There wasnâ€™t a lot to do on that hot sticky summer morning.Â We had just moved from a neighborhood populated with kids to the Dealy place on West Park Street.Â Except for the Crears who lived with their two grown-up kids across the street, our only neighbors were the grocery store on the other side of the canal and the coal shed across the river where trains backed up to dump their loads.Â
Our new house was on a man-made island in the middle of town.Â Right off, all four of us had been told not to go near the water, but nothing prohibited us from using the canal and river bridges to explore everything that lived on and in the water.
Hanging over the cement railing to study the murky river shallows on that summer morning, Roger and I noticed there were little fish in there, but there was something else too. Something with big bulgy eyes. So we decided to go fishing. Â
Being only seven and eight, we didnâ€™t have much to fish with, but we knew where Dad kept his gear in the corner of the garage.Â At first, casting over the railing with the big poles was awkward, and none of the stuff in the tackle box interested either the fish or the bulgy eyes. So we dug up some worms from the flower bed.Â Ditto the worms. Â
Our next older brother, after telling us we were going to get it for using Dadâ€™s stuff when he got home, took a look at the bulgy eyes and pronounced that those were bullfrogs in the water. They sat, he informed us, just below the surface with only their eyes showing, waiting for insects to fly by. Then they would use their big hind legs to jump up and grab â€˜em.
Logically, the only way to catch a bullfrog down there from up here was to tie a small piece of red cloth to a fishhook, pretend it was an insect, and wave it slowly in front of those eyes. And boy, did that work! Â
It didnâ€™t take many days of frog fishing for us to realize we had an excess of frogs and no idea what to do with them. Roger was better than I was at taking them off the hook but it was my idea to put them in a five gallon bucket. Keeping them in the bucket was another thing.
We had heard that some people ate frogsâ€™ legs so we talked about selling our catch as we moved on to an old washtub in the garage. But before we could put together a business plan, Dad got a whiff of something that didnâ€™t smell quite right.Â
At the time, seeing our bullfrogs, some now barely alive, get dumped back into the river, felt like one of lifeâ€™s greatest injustices. Our independent fishing rights were cut off but I still think that our ambitious adventure was behind the â€œBait for Saleâ€ sign that soon went up in the front yard.Â
We couldnâ€™t sell frog legs but we learned to drag nets for minnows in the local lake, catch cray fish and successfully raise garden worms in compost. Selling bait turned out to be a profitable business, and all four of us kids had the privilege of contributing to our familyâ€™s income by collecting a one pound coffee can of night crawlers before bed for many summer nights to come. Â
What mischief did you make with your siblings in the summer? If you like telling and listening to stories, ask me about a writing class near you, so you can enjoy the fun of reliving those great memories of the past. Â Â Â