.......continued from yesterday
To my dad, wading in chest deep water along the grassy banks of the mist covered Poky River with a forked pole and 6 volt Ray-O-Vac flashlight on a moonless summer night after midnight was the ultimate test of country manhood. The tradition began shortly after my older sister began dating and I now believe it was a plot to discourage or scare away her current suitor because the ‘boyfriend’ was always invited to come along and join in the fun. Besides the ‘boyfriend’, there would be two or three of dad’s ‘city’ friends and generally an uncle or cousin invited.Leaving from Charleston about 10:00pm, dad and I would ride in the old 53’ Willis jeep and the others would follow in their cars. Dad always seemed to choose the long route into the property which was the windiest and the darkest. To uninitiated, it must have seemed like we were descending deep into some forgotten wilderness abyss as we traveled down the mountain on ever narrowing roads to the river.
Base camp for the gigging expeditions was the island at the “low water crossing”. It became a low water crossing because of the confluence of Rock Creek with the Poky River. The meeting of the two waters left a deposit of sand and rock that created a little delta. Arriving around midnight dad would immediately present his world famous tutorial on the technique and nuance of stalking and stabbing frogs to the newbies by the light of our old Coleman lantern. It was my job to build a stone ringed fire on the exposed part of the delta. After a ceremonial moment of silence to listen respectfully to the droning baritone calls of their prey, dad handed out gigs, flashlights and green rubberized shoulder bags to the unequipped and the bold hunters waded off into the misty darkness.
The first years of this tradition I participated fully. I can still feel the goose bumps of excitement, the smell of the water and the sensation of my shoes flooding with sandy water as I waded in. As time went on I lost my lust for frog blood. I discovered that the frogs were so completely immobilized by the flashlight shining in their eyes, that it was just as easy to grab them by hand so I’d wade out and grab a few just so I would have something to show at the “Frog Braggin’” (a competition to determine who had captured the largest and possibly most dangerous amphibian). By the light of the fire it was impossible to distinguish a stabbed frog from a hand caught one so my manhood was never challenged. Before heading home I would secretly release them back into the water.
For the rest of the evening I would tend the fire at the delta. About an hour into the hunt I would throw pre-prepared foil wrapped ears of corn on the embers. Dad had a special way he like to prep the corn for the roasting and he would always have a dozen or so ears in the back of the Jeep on giggin’ nights, wrapped and ready for the fire.
For some reason, the big frogs always seemed to be north of the delta and most of the group headed up that way. It was magical to sit by the fire, look up the river and watch the beams of light crisscrossing the foggy night air, occasionally hearing a splash when someone tripped over a submerged log or an expletive when a frog escaped or a snake slithered by. By about 2:30 AM the giggers returned to the delta, had some corn, showed their frogs and dried out by the fire. It was never a raucous time; there was no hootin’ and hollerin’, no beer drinking and no bawdy stories. Still, it was the kind of manly fun and adventure that put a lasting smile on your face. I know there are a few of the “one-timers” out there still telling the story of the night they went giggn’ with my dad on that dark West Virginia river.
On the Story Trail
4 days ago