SEVEN: THE THINKING ROCK
“See you later,” Anna Marie called out to Mother.
Mother was busy at the kitchen sink washing dishes. Anna Marie walked slowly down a familiar gravel tail that connected each cabin of the resort with the store and dock. Head down, she didn’t seem to notice her surroundings or that it was a glorious midsummer day. Duke bounded in front of her, occasionally running back for a pat on the head. Anna Marie was headed to the store, where she hoped other kids had gathered, resort kids looking for company and perhaps some sort of an adventure on a quiet summer afternoon.
Funny, she thought as she entered the store, no one’s here. Maybe they all left for town or went out fishing with their folks.
She admitted to herself that she was lonesome for her sister Jean who had been gone for only a few days.
It’s not fair that I can’t go to camp. I hate being ten. Let’s see. She’s been gone since Sunday. It’s now Tuesday. Those kids always leave me out. It’s always “Be careful. Don’t do this. Watch out.” Or “Go find your mother if you’re gonna cry.” Well, I hope it rains all week at 4-H Camp and the bugs are horrible!
Jean was at 4-H Camp on Lake Eshquagama near Biwabik, Minnesota with the Aase kids. The parents had been friends for years. This was Jean’s second year at camp. She had earned money to attend by picking strawberries at the Aase farm.
Anna Marie missed her sister. Jean, usually the oldest kid at the resort always came up with good ideas for what to do when there was free time. Anna Marie had to admit she missed her sister at night too. She was used to sharing a big double bed with her. Now there was no one to share whispers with or watch the yellow then white moon move in and out of the dark green pine branches through their window. As a substitute for her sister Anna Marie propped her panda bear on Jean’s pillow but he looked silly and forlorn sitting there.
Anna Marie wandered down to the dock sat down on a lawn chair and called to Duke who was bounding after frogs along the beach. Once in a while he managed to catch a frog and then carry it in his mouth for a short time. He never seemed to hurt the frogs. He gave them a short ride before he dropped them.
Watching Duke gave Anna Marie an idea. She rummaged around in the three-sided open shed that was built against the ice house and found the inner part of an old galvanized steel minnow bucket. She followed Duke into tall grass near the shore and after a few minutes captured three green speckled frogs which she quickly plopped into the minnow bucket and set in shallow water. She dipped her hands into the lake and wiped them on her red shorts. As usual her feet were bare: Perfect for wading whenever she felt the urge.
She stood there quietly looking out over the blue lake. The low hum of insects busy in the weeds and bushes was the only sound. A light breeze blew. It wasn’t hot.
Anna Marie pushed the fine-grained light brown beach sand with her big toe and watched water lap into the tiny depression she’d dug. There was still no one around. She heard the chore boy chopping wood and kindling in the distance. She didn’t feel much like talking to the chore boy. In fact she didn’t feel much like talking to anyone. Anna Marie was lonely. Plain and simple. Lonely, sad, and a bit angry that she’d been left out of the fun at camp. Left out. Again.
Anna Marie left the water’s edge and slowly climbed the steps towards the store. Inside the store tucked away under the candy counter she had stashed an almost-new light yellow school tablet. She found a stubby pencil and called to Duke.
Off they went. She carried the notebook in one hand. The pencil was tucked safely in a pocket of her shorts. In the other hand she carried the minnow bucket containing the frogs. She and the dog followed a faint deer trail that ran between the cabins and along the shoreline. Duke raced ahead barking. She stopped to sniff and lightly touch the blooms of pink wild roses. The flowers were delicate sweet smelling and soft to her fingertips.
Funny, she thought. So many times woodsy stuff is soft and when you pick wild flowers, they quickly wilt.
Father had encouraged the girls to admire flowers, leaves, toadstools and yes, even frogs where they grew or were found. Yet here she was, on her way to her special large rock, which she called the Thinking Rock, with three captive frogs in a bucket.
Anna had discovered the huge odd-shaped rock when the resort was first opened. Tall brush and trees hid it from view even though it was in the middle of the deer trail. From time to time Anna Marie would visit the Thinking Rock and perch herself on top of the boulder. It was safe and quiet: A place to think, sometimes to pout or to get away from her sister’s teasing. A place where her mother’s voice couldn’t reach her to do this or that. A place where other kids couldn’t bug her. The rock was her special secret place. She’d told no one about Thinking Rock. She had found it and claimed it. So there!
Anna Marie climbed up the rough scratchy surface of the rock. She brushed twigs and fuzzy moss off her clothing and sat down, opened the minnow bucket and very carefully removed each frog. They seemed a little dopey so she pushed one of them gently with a finger. It hopped a few inches and then sat blinking its bulging eyes. Some resort kids were afraid to touch frogs. Not Anna Marie. When she wanted to show off to city slicker kids she would carry a fat brown lumpy toad in her small hands. Toads were harder to find and catch because they weren’t found out in the open like frogs.
So there she sat, a little brown haired girl wearing a white shirt and red shorts admiring three green stunned frogs. She stretched out her legs and looked at her dirty toes. Duke had vanished but she could hear him barking. He’d likely treed a porcupine or some other animal. The frogs sat very still, their green skin twitching. She wished she had some lake water to pour over their small bodies. She thought that they might be sick or sleepy after being in the minnow bucket.
Anna Marie wasn’t a bit lonely sitting by herself on her rock. The air smelled sweet like mid-summer. The smell of wild flowers, pine trees and decaying vegetation all mixed together to create the woodsy odor. She looked down at the tablet. The lined paper reminded her of a story she had written during the past year. Mrs. Peterson, her teacher at Merritt School had asked her to read her story, a Pilgrim story in front of the class. It had been a proud day for Anna Marie.
At home in Duluth she made many trips to the public library. In the summer Mother, Jean and Anna Marie made weekly trips to the Ely Public Library. Anna liked to read and write stories.
Someday I’ll write a book. I’ll be famous and people will want to talk to me. Maybe I’ll be on radio reading my stories!
Once upon a time there was a woodland fairy princess who lived deep in a green pine forest, under a huge moss-covered gray stone…
She began writing, her head bent over the tablet deep in thought.
“Anna Marie,” Mother’s faint voice called out. “Come here. We’ve got company.”
It sounded like Mother was standing on the dock commanding Anna to come NOW.
One by one Anna Marie carefully picked up each frog. She followed the trail down to the lakeshore where she stooped over and placed the frogs in shallow water. Each frog jumped into the weeds and was soon out of sight.
“Hey Duke come on. Let’s go!” she called out, grabbing the minnow bucket and tablet. She hid the pencil in a crack in the Thinking Rock hoping it would stay there until her next visit. Duke came charging out of the brush, his tongue hanging out, his tail wagging. Wet mud coated his feet and legs making him appear to be wearing high black boots. He’d obviously been busy, snooping in the woods, digging in the muck. The girl and the dog followed the deer trail back to the resort.
“Look who’s here,” Mother said swishing her hands around her head at gnats swarming around her face. “Mike, Mary, Lois and the other kids are changing. You’ve got time for a quick swim before supper. We’re having a picnic.” Mother scrutinized Anna Marie. “Where’ve you been all afternoon?”
“Just walking around.”
“Why are you carrying that tablet?”
“I’m drawing pictures of flowers and stuff.”
Anna Marie ran up to the cabin. There was no time to waste. By now her cousin Lois from Ely and the Evenocheck kids from Winton would be shouting, pushing and splashing water on each other. She found her red wool swimming suit on the clothes line, entered the cabin, tore her clothes off, leaving them heaped in a pile on the floor and pulled the itchy one-piece suit over her feet and legs. Before she left the room she hid the tablet under her pillow to read later on, at night when she was alone.
A day that had started out boring and lonely had suddenly become a day to be recalled many times in later years. It had been a day when three sleepy green frogs, a barking fawn-colored hunting dog and a ten year old lonely little girl had shared a summer afternoon. After all, “Once Upon a Time Stories” always end with the phrase “And they lived happily ever after!”
Timber Wolf Lodge is honored and excited to share the delightful book “Back Of Beyond” A Memoir from the North Woods. We will be sharing a new story in the blog from time-to-time.
From Susanne Schuler’s memoir “Back of Beyond”. Susanne’s family founded Timber Wolf Lodge over 70 years ago and her book recounts her childhood days growing up here.