Growing up, I was never a frilly girl. I hated the color pink, any kind of ribbons or lace, and all the other typically feminine styles. Mama sewed for me, keeping all my dresses plain and simple, just the way I liked them. My only typically feminine characteristic was my inordinate and intense ranidaphobia—fear of frogs, that is. Since frogs primarily live outdoors, I preferred the great indoors. If I stayed inside, chances of encountering a frog were slim.
Then I grew up and God blessed me with three sons. I enjoyed my years teaching other people’s children for a living, but I never doubted that my most important career was the rearing of my own boys. Larry and I tried really hard to do all the right things with the boys, and as a result, we spent years in Cub Scouts. At first, the boys were too young to camp, so it never occurred to me that their stint in Scouts might involve my spending time in the woods in a tent. Frogs live in woodlands!
Then one year the adult leaders decided to end Cub Scout Day Camp with a family campout on the banks of the Altamaha River across from Plant Hatch. I don’t remember where I was when those plans were laid, but we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men.
Day camp went especially well that year. I hiked in the woods with groups of boys and told them Indian lore and ghost stories. They loved it; so did I. We did crafts with treasures we collected on the trails and other supplies that leaders brought. We milked a plywood cow with udders made of surgical gloves generously supplied by some benevolent doctor in town. About an hour after lunch, someone from Plant Hatch Visitors’ Center would drive up with enough popsicles for 100 hot Cub Scouts and their leaders. On really good days, some one brought cold watermelons. As the week progressed toward Friday night’s campout, excitement grew among the boys, but I started to have second thoughts.
I thought of frogs somehow managing to get into my tent.
“Larry, I’m going to leave after the campfire ceremony Friday night and I’ll come back out Saturday morning to help pack up,” I told him.
“But this is a family campout,” he replied. “The boys want you to stay.”
“We don’t have a tent,” I countered.
“We can use one of the scout tents,” he said.
“But . . . ,” I stammered, fishing for excuses.
“Come on, Mom, it’ll be fun,” said Jakey, walking up on the conversation.
At that moment I realized that I’d be sleeping out in the woods for the first time in my life. A thrill washed over me. At least, I tried to tell myself it was a thrill.
Friday night came with closing activities, songs, and awards around a big campfire. Grilled burgers and hot dogs filled out bellies. The stars rose and in the twilight Josh pointed to the oak tree a mere two feet from us.
“Look, Mom. Do you see that snake?”
Sure enough, a snake was slithering up the big tree and keeping his eye on us—the intruders in his domain. Did I run screaming for the car and lock the door? Of course not. I was scared of frogs, not snakes. We just sat and watched as he scurried on up into the branches and out of sight.
As we prepared the tent for the night, I did make certain that the flap was tightly closed and I placed my bedroll in the back corner as far away from the opening as possible, carefully placing my children between me and any intruder frogs. They spent a pleasant night. I didn’t sleep much, but when I did, visions of killer frogs danced in my head. The rock beneath my tent just under my sleeping spot didn’t help much either. I breathed a sigh of relief when the boys graduated to Boy Scouts. Mothers did not camp with that group.
Consequently, my entire camping experience ended with that one frogless outing. And might I add that one event was quite sufficient.