When I was a kid, we visited my parent's family in Indiana once or twice a year, for a week in the summer and sometimes at Christmastime. We always stayed with my Grandma Davis or Aunt Nora, my father's family. We visited my mother's family, too, at my Grandpa Prater's farmhouse in Garrett, but it was sort of boring -- impenetrable Kentucky accents, smoking and drinking, endless discussions of things that happened 100 years ago back in the hills.
And no one to play with, except for my Cousin Buster. Sometimes my Uncle Paul would play -- until the summer after 3rd grade, when he got married and turned into an adult. I have only a few solid memories: swimming in the pool down the road, catching frogs, fishing, having milkshakes with his friends, learning how to "pee in the wind" (with the wind blowing away from you, so the stream is carried a long way).
And the Naked Man in the Peat Bog
"Why doesn't Grandpa tell him to move out?" I asked, already aware of property rights.
Paul thought for a moment. "He's been living here a lot longer than we have, more than a hundred years."
"Well, if he's that old, he can't run very fast. I can get away, I bet!"
So one day in the summer of 1969, when we were visiting for the wedding, I decided to go exploring. I brought my cousins Graydon and Dayton (Kentucky Kinfolk).
We walked quickly through the back yard, where Paul and three of his friends were playing horse shoes -- they didn't see us -- then past the barn and the vegetable garden. We pieced our way through the high corn row for maybe a quarter mile, until it opened up into a little grove of trees, with the peat bog beyond. It was mossy-gold, with little specks of shimmering water. There was a musty, earthy smell. I thought I heard splashing.
"I just heard one!"
We got some sticks and started poking around in the moss, swirling the muddy water that oozed up. I thought I saw a gold glinting shape -- maybe an alligator, or maybe lost pirate treasure, which would be just as good!
"Why...what's the matter, kids?" he asked in surprise. "Did you see a rattlesnake?"
I didn't notice at the time that he was grinning. Or that one of his friends was missing.
For a long time, I thought I had a real paranormal experience. But recently my boyfriend suggested that Uncle Paul might have set the whole thing up to scare us away from the dangerous peat bog.
It worked. We never went back.
See also: My Best Man