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Author Topic: Swamp Recess - by George D. Stout  (Read 1418 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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Swamp Recess - by George D. Stout
« on: June 07, 2003, 03:27:00 PM »
Swamp Recess

by George D. Stout

I’m not sure of when my interest in entomology began, although I know it was sometime during my first five years of book-learning at Mt. Pleasant School, a one-room sanctuary of higher education located in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Not that I particularly preferred entomology as a science when I was in the third grade; I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even spell it until I was fourteen. However, I did know that I liked creatures. Especially those that were endemic to the local swamp that we passed each day in route to and from school.

Everyone in the school knew of the swamp, but only we budding entomologists knew of the varied flora and fauna that inhabited its boundaries. The experts at Mt. Pleasant School consisted of yours truly and my sidekick Harley Linseed. We could quickly identify any creature in the swamp by its scientific name. “Look,” Harley would say, “It’s a long-tailed, green bellied lizard with a yellow stripe!” It was mind-boggling how quick he could delve into specie specifics.

Harley and I received our formative entomology education during recesses; those fifteen-minute escapes from studying boring stuff like math, writing and reading. When the recess bell rang we would make a beeline for the swamp which was about two hundred yards down the road from the schoolyard. Upon arrival we separated quickly to search for adventure, which could be found in the form of anything that walked, creeped, crawled, or hadn’t been dead for too long. Usually it was in the form of amphibians or assorted reptiles. Once in awhile we had bonus encounters such as geese, ducks or blue herons. After a while though, the critters started to smarten-up and hid at the slightest sound of a recess bell or the vibration of size six shoes on the macadam road.

After our reputations had begun to spread to the local swamp animal population, it became necessary to become more investigative in order to develop revelations, like grasshoppers spitting when angered, or how swamp mud could suck a shoe right off of your foot in mid stride. When you’re eight, and involved in one-room-school entomology, revelations are important to your reputation; otherwise, you would not take your proper place in the history of scientific discovery, as I was sure we would. I wasn’t quite sure of Harley’s intent, however, since he didn’t seem as interested in revelations. Harley possessed an ethereal quality that was hard to read. At times you just expected his face to crack open, creating a metamorphic transition to an alien being of sorts. At other times he actually appeared to use major parts of his cerebrum when least expected.

One thing that Harley and I both possessed was a lack of patience and perseverance. We quickly became bored of inconclusive investigation and would dive into mischief abruptly, mainly so we wouldn’t waste any valuable recess time on too much pondering. During such escapades we normally gravitated toward the grapevine that hung precariously from the sycamore tree, by the frog pond.

During one particular outing we became bored and found ourselves heading to the sycamore tree in short order. Harley was first there and grabbed hold of the vine. He held tight as he backed up until his feet were barely touching the ground, then he would run as fast as he could go until lift-off carried him out and over the frog pond. When taking rides on the grapevine, the onus was on landing rather than flying, simply because the sycamore tree was always in the same spot and the vine wanted for inexplicable reasons to return there. To escape this bit of comedic gravity, one had to launch out and away in order to create a wider sweep and hopefully land in the brush to the side of the big tree. Harley made a good first launch and circled the frog pond, landing nicely in a patch of itch weed that we forgot was there.

Stinging nettle, or as we called it, itch weed, had hair like features all around its stem, and upon contact with the skin created a red rash and much itching. The more you scratched the more you itched and you normally ended up looking like you had been bobbing for French fries in extra hot grease. As Harley began his scratching I grabbed the vine and made sure my trajectory would take me in a reverse direction and away from the nettle. In my calculations, however, I forgot that the reverse arc would end up in a patch of blackberry briars if not traversed properly.

Giving a run to the left I lifted off like a proud juvenile eagle and swept out and across the left side of the frog pond. As I circled to my right I caught a glimpse of my intended landing area and had only seconds to acquire coordinates for proper disposition of my body on the pond’s south side. Needless to say, when you’re in the third grade, acquiring coordinates quickly very seldom occurs in the nick of time, so in keeping with the occasion at hand I did the next best thing; closed my eyes and screamed at the top of my lungs.

Previous to my flight, neither of us had seen Craig’s Springer Spaniel come into the swamp. Nellie Belle, as she was called, was about half deaf and asthmatic, and when excited would let out a comical response that sounded like a bark with a lisp. At any rate, as I approached my landing site in the briar patch, Nellie Belle was just entering ground zero. The next few seconds seemed like an eternity.

When I opened my eyes just before landing, I was greeted by large clinging briar stickers, much tearing of the skin, and an extremely surprised spaniel. The ensuing fracas brought cries from both participants. I led off with an inordinately high-pitched scream that caught Nellie Belle’s attention. Assuming perhaps that she was being descended on by some sort of flying monster, she quickly replied with a, “RROOWWWTH” and a show of teeth. For about ten seconds one could only see flying leaves, bits of dog hair and a screaming third-grader.

It was over rather quickly as I got up and ran right into the sycamore. Nellie Belle took off for the Craig farm and responded with several “RROOWWWTH’S” on the way. Harley in the meantime was still scratching his itches and missed the whole escapade. As we headed back to the school, Harley said, “did you notice how these welts look like ant bites? Do you think ants live inside those itch weed plants?”

I said, “ I don’t know,“ as I spit out some dog hair and pulled blackberry thorns from my right ear, “just looks like itch weed marks to me.” Harley replied, “Yeah...that was one of the best times ever...huh?” “Yep”, I responded, “Better get back to the school; Mrs. Brannon will be ‘gettin worried.” As we walked up the hill to school, in the distance we heard a final salute from the Craig farm. “RROOWWWTH!”

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