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Chapter 028 The Great Pond monster

“THERE’S SOMETHING OUT THERE!” screamed a clearly terrified Patty, as she flung herself into the cabin and slammed the door behind her. This was our family’s 17th year at camp, and I personally had never been terrified by anything in the woods there.

It was midnight on Christmas Eve, 1977, and Patty and I had just driven straight to camp from New Mexico, some 2500 miles, stopping only briefly in nearby Waterville to pick up some basics – milk, drinking water, a turkey and stuffing, a bottle of Jack Daniels…

There was a winter solstice full moon overhead and a foot of snow on the ground reflecting the moonlight – visibility was surreal and excellent. The snow plow had ceased its work about a half mile from camp and the road was impassable by car from that point on.

We parked Patty’s little Audi Fox on the side of the road and began the process of transporting our gear and supplies through the snow to camp. We had enough stuff for several trips, but tried to take it all at once anyway. Footing was brutal since the surface of the snow had melted and crusted over, and with every step, a block of ice broke and slid us in a random direction. Progress was slow and exhausting. By the time we got to the turnoff to our camp road, we couldn’t carry everything anymore. I suggested we leave some of it for later, carry what we could straight to camp, and I’d go in and start making camp livable, while Patty took several more trips to bring the rest of the stuff. She was a strong, outdoorsy woman and this plan was fine with her – in fact she relished the chance to be outside walking in the woods after being cramped for 50 hours in the car.

So into camp I went, while Patty returned to the top of our road to retrieve the rest of our supplies. I was happy and content and busied myself with getting the electricity turned on and the fires started, until she burst through the door, terrified and screaming. (I learned later that her petrified 150 yard dash was made at Olympic record breaking speed, without a misstep, on a surface that moments before had been all but impassable to us.) I’d just spent the last six months in the almost constant company of this woman, and I felt I knew her well. Admittedly I was head over heels in love with her so possibly not the best person to have an unbiased opinion. She was very pretty, with a smile that could melt a glacier, and gorgeous blue-grey eyes that were portals to the purest soul I’d ever had a glimpse into. Nevertheless, I knew from firsthand experience she was also smart, logical, and tough, and I was sure if she believed there was something out there, then there was something out there. “Is it an animal?” I queried. “I DON’T KNOW!” she breathlessly replied. “Is it a person?” I persisted. “I DON’T KNOW!” she responded again. “Well, what do you think it might be?” I tried. “I DON’T KNOW!!! All I know is it sounded REALLY big and it went: ‘Blub, blub, blub, BLUUUB!’” Well, that wasn’t a camp sound I recognized. I feebly told her that when you buy a hunting license in Maine you get a short pamphlet, at the beginning of which it clearly states, “Nothing in the Maine woods will hurt you.” Really, it says that – right at the beginning. So I passed this bit of Maine wisdom along to Patty, a mountain girl from the West who’d never been east of Iowa before. She looked uncomforted and unconvinced. She knew what she’d heard and she knew it was large and alien. I told Patty to stay inside – no persuading necessary to achieve that – grabbed my rifle, and went out. Because of the bright moonlit night I could see perfectly, but I saw, and heard nothing – just a calm, peaceful, still night – camp in winter. I gathered the rest of our supplies, and brought them back to camp with me.

I told Patty what I’d (not) seen and heard. She was hardly impressed by this news but obviously glad to be safe, in one piece, in a well lit, warm place. We pulled the downstairs twin bed in front of the big stone fireplace in the living room and cuddled up for warmth, comfort, security, and because we really liked each other.

The thermometer dipped to a brisk 10 below overnight, before the mid-winter sun rose at 9:00 AM to start the short, northern latitude day. The sun reflecting off the snow made the day brilliant. We knocked a hole through the foot of ice covering the lake to fetch water. We made and ate breakfast, dressed in our woolies, and headed outside. Because of the post-snowfall thaw, the lake was free of snow – smooth and slick – nature’s Zamboni at work.

We spent the morning “skating” on the surface of Great Pond in our heavy winter snow boots. We were having a blast, and then we heard IT – “Blub, blub, blub BLUUUB!” viscerally deep and heavy. We froze. Within seconds, we saw that the sound was accompanied by a visible shift in the thick ice and the air trapped by it. Mystery solved – the Great Pond Monster was the sound of shifting ice.

Nevertheless, I was now two for two in terrifying my future wives within minutes of their first arrival at camp. Hell, for Patty, she was panic-stricken when she first set foot in camp. And it’s the place where we’ve had over three decades of our best times and strongest memories, at first by ourselves, and then with our kids. Initial terror – just more Maine Magic, I guess…