Friday, April 27, 2012

Tiger Trap

There's a murderer in the woods by Rattlesnake Lake.  He's set up a bunker there and the police have the whole area cordoned off until they rout him out.  They have also said that he might have set up booby traps near there.  This man killed his wife and daughter and then set his house on fire.  It's horrible to think what would make a man do something so evil.  I don't think he's even in there any more.   Mike said he thinks that he is, that the police saw some movement and smelled the smoke of his fire.  Nick is trying to figure out how to protect us should we need it.  I'm glad he didn't get too worried about the whole thing.

Nick's Boy Scout troop was supposed to take a hike tomorrow and it had to be canceled because we'd planned to follow the old railroad grade up there.  The whole place is probably going to be closed off.  It's about a twenty minute drive away.  I have to tell you that it's strange living even that close.  This afternoon, Nick asked his friend Jack to come over to play.  I was reading about all of this trouble on Facebook, about how the daughter had gone to the local high school and how my friends who live closer to the area than I do are worried about their safety.  I watched the boys through the window, holding back my impulse to gather them up, bring them inside, lock the doors, and lower the shades. 

When I was a kid, there was a rumor that an escaped convict tried to hide out in the old Boy Scout woods behind the houses on our street.  Oh, our parents kept us inside for a while, but let us go back out as soon as they got the all-clear or we drove them crazy, I'm not sure which.  When we gathered out there, we had a powwow.  We were going to stick together.  No one walked alone, but we didn't abandon our woods either.  This place was ours

I remember how spooked I was, but instead of worrying or staying away, we built a tiger trap.  It took all afternoon, but we dug a hole about five feet square and three or four feet deep.  Corky pointed out that it wasn't deep enough to keep the convict in if he dropped into it, but Ritchie said that he'd at least break his leg and then we could whack him over the head and tie him up.  God save the poor man who came aimlessly wandering through after that.  We carefully covered the hole with deadfall that wouldn't support the weight of a man and covered that with leaves and brush.  We had positioned this tiger trap in the middle of the main path.  When we were done, we set snares by pulling small trees over and attaching them to loops staked loosely to the ground.  They weren't big enough to hold a man, but we figured they might startle him and make him fall into our tiger trap if they snapped upright.  I remember how we thought we were so smart, but the effect probably wasn't subtle.  When we couldn't think of any more damage to do to our aimless wanderer/escaped convict, we climbed the trees and took turns at the watch, never leaving anyone out there alone.

I imagine I was such a chatterbox that when Corky and I were on patrol, no man would come within earshot for fear of being killed by a million little-girl questions.  Just what did we talk about back then?  I have no idea.  Remember, I have boys.  I do remember staging about a thousand princess weddings, but I also climbed trees and dug in the mud for fossils.  I found some good ones too.  I'd read about Heinrich Schliemann, an amateur archaeologist who found the Mask of Agamemnon at the site he believed was Troy.  Oh, I wanted to find something in my woods, bones or gold or buried treasure.  I honestly convinced myself and Corky that this convict was retrieving his cache.  There was treasure to be found.

After that, the tiger trap wasn't the only hole we dug in our woods.  We never caught the convict.  In fact, we were lucky, but no one else ever dropped into our tiger trap, though we all got adept leaping across that part of the trail.  No parent ever told us to fill it in or that it was a hazard.  It made us feel safe in those woods.  We could protect ourselves.  I imagined myself being chased by the convict and the way I'd lead him right over that trap where I figured he'd at least break an ankle and I could call the police and become a hero. Then, in the moments before the police came, he'd confess through tears and tell me the secret of where he'd hidden the body and his millions. 

Not surprisingly, we never did find bones or a cache either, despite our multitude of holes.  But, one day, Corky and I did find something.

It was about the size of one of our knobby knees.  We were just sure it was a bone of someone long dead or better yet, a dinosaur bone.  We spent an hour or two with an old toothbrush, cleaning it up.  As we worked, the rock's story grew more and more grand.  When we showed it to Corky's big sister, she laughed at our theories, telling us it was just some old dumb rock.  We were crushed, but I went home with the thing anyway.  It was my old bone and I wanted to find out more about it.  So one day after piano lessons, I walked up to the Geology department at the university with my rock in my pocket.  I showed it to a very nice man that I found there.  He told me that fortunately, it wasn't a bone, and no, it wasn't a dinosaur bone either, but that it was just about the biggest piece of fossilized coral he had ever seen.  Then he gently sent me home with it, telling me to keep up the good work and thanking me for showing him my find.

They never did find the convict in our woods.  If they had found him there, he'd have been trussed up, gagged, whacked on the head, and in the bottom of a shallow tiger trap.  Lucky for him.  I'm not sure the Rattlesnake Lake fugitive is going to be so lucky.  He'd better watch out for the kids that live up in those woods.  They're probably planning their tiger traps as we speak.

Thank you for listening, jb

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