I grew up next to a military base. My father, being a retired military veteran, enjoyed all the benefits of being able to travel on and off post anytime he wished. My father was also an avid outdoorsman, and he would spend all of his free time hunting and fishing on the military reservation.
Our house was the first house built in our neighborhood. When it was completed, it was the only house visible for miles in every direction. It was so isolated that my father could sit out on the back porch and call quail up to our house using his abilities as a bird mimicker.
After moving away from this house for a short period of time and returning a few years later, a small neighborhood had emerged around us and the city boundary had moved to include our property. Our house switched to city water and sewage, and the roads in our area became paved. We were still very close (approximately 200-300 yards) to the southern boundary of the military reservation, and during this time, this area of the military reservation permitted free access to anyone wishing to enter through and use the post as a shortcut to get to Interstate 44.
My father and I would often walk into the military reservation at night and go frog hunting around the many ponds scattered around the area. My father would call these ponds "tanks" and would spend his days fishing in them out of a small boat that he would carry in his truck. However, this story is about hunting bullfrogs.
These frogs would grow to an enormous size, and after gathering a sack full of them, we would walk back to the house and give them to my mother who would cut off their legs and fry them for dinner.
The frog-gigging protocol was simple. I would carry the lantern and a large burlap sack and my father would carry a flashlight and a five-foot long stick topped with a small trident of sharp barbs. My father and I would wait for it to get dark and then we would proceed to walk to the nearest pond. The nearest pond was only a twenty-minute walk away (about a mile) and we could hear the croaking of the frogs long before we arrived at the scene.
My father would walk in front, carefully scanning the ground for poisonous snakes, and I would follow behind. After reaching the pond, my father would slowly walk its perimeter with the flashlight pointed on the ground in front. My job was to hold the lantern high and keep an eye out for the glowing pinpricks of light reflecting off of small eyes that would warn us of an approaching water moccasin and to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.
My father would focus his light on the shore until he caught the eyes of a bullfrog. For some reason, the bullfrogs would "freeze" whenever they looked into the flashlight. My father would then lunge forward with his stick and gig the frog. He would then swing his stick towards me and I would enclose the frog within the burlap sack and pull it off of the stick. This would continue until we made one complete circuit around the pond.
We would never make more than one circle around any one pond, and if we did not have what my father would decide as enough frogs, we would walk to the next pond. On most occasions, one circuit around the pond was usually sufficient and we would walk back to the house. We never went frog-gigging more than two times in any one month and I remember this activity with great fondness.
I remember receiving many visits from kinfolk during the summers of my childhood years. All of my relatives lived in Texas and they shared the same love for hunting and fishing as my father.
On one occasion, my favorite aunt and uncle traveled up to visit us and Dad invited my uncle to go frog-gigging with us. This required a change of protocol. My father would still lead with the stick, but my uncle would follow with the burlap sack and I would bring up the rear holding the lantern.
We made our plans and waited for it to get sufficiently dark. At approximately 9:00 PM we marched out towards the first pond. I anticipated a hearty catch as the pond seemed to be especially noisy this night. After about twenty minutes, we arrived at the pond's edge. Just as we started to edge our away around the pond, we were startled out of our concentration when an extremely bright flash engulfed our area. I remember the flash being so bright that I could clearly make out colors and see with great detail the surrounding area. The flash of light seemed to take no more than three or four seconds before it winked out and left the three of us standing there in stunned silence. For some reason, the area was deathly quiet as even the bullfrogs seemed to have quit their croaking.
The next few words uttered by my father and uncle still reverberate in my mind so many years later: "Ray, I reckon' we should just start headin' back to the house."
"Tom, I reckon you're right."
I did not say a word and turned to follow my father and uncle back to our home. We arrived without incident and as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed from the clock on the wall that it was after three o'clock in the morning!
"Dad, what time do you have?"
"Go to bed, son. We'll talk about it in the morning."
We never did talk about it after that and my father preempted my questions the next morning with the stern admonition to never mention the events of the past night to anybody else upon pain of punishment. I feared my father's belt and I would never bring up this incident again until many years later after my father had died. However, the incident seemed to die with my father as my uncle would not admit to any memory of the incident and he would casually dismiss any of my questions with the look of a man trying to placate the imaginings of an eccentric nephew.
Little did I know at that time that this would not be my family's only brush with the phenomenon of missing time.