When I was a child, my family owned a camp in Poland, Maine, on Middle Range Pond. It was perched atop a wooded hillside several acres away from the lake itself. But if you followed the brook that flowed through our property, stepping over an old beaver dam and avoiding the swarms of yellow jackets that nested inside, you would arrive at a marshy inlet of the pond. It was easier for my brother and me to walk down the road to the bridge that spanned the upper and middle reaches of the Range ponds. There, we would fish with worms for the little sunfish that swam in the shallows, occasionally hooking a bass or pickerel - a fish of real consequence - although mostly we were just after bluegills.
My family called our camp, "the cottage" (see page 68), and it was in those woods that I fell in love with the outdoors. With a stick in hand, I would roam our ten acres of wilderness, discovering all manner of creatures by inspecting every inch of the forest floor: spring peepers and red efts, spotted salamanders, and, once, a hairless, pink creature that I deduced was an infant weasel. I caught enormous bullfrogs in the swamp across the road, so big they required two hands to lift. (Strange but true, a bullfrog will sometimes wail when you hold it, the sound very human-like and disturbing.)
The cottage itself was a drafty, A-frame structure, with a fieldstone fireplace and sleeping loft for the kids. I remember the spring nights when we built roaring fires and how, as the stones heated, mouse after mouse would come darting out from their secret nests in the cracks. The cottage was always getting broken into when we were away, but there was never really anything there of value, maybe a canoe or two.
My parents sold the property when I hit my mid-teens, to sock away funds for my college education. By that time my pubescent interests were moving in different directions anyway. And so we said good-bye to the cottage. Recently, though, my wife and I were out for a drive and somehow ended up near Poland. I decided to show her the place. I knew time would have changed the cottage; I imagined trees knocked down and new houses gone up nearby. But as we turned down Range Hill Road and crossed the bridge, I couldn't help but feel a heightening sense of anticipation. We started up the hill, and there, where once an old A-frame had been, stood a large suburban-style home. Across the road, where once I'd caught bullfrogs that cried when you held them, was another just like it.