It was a wild place to begin with. The small group of cottages seemed like an idyllic spot, but in reality, the grounds and lake were teeming with wild animals. The snapping turtle population alone probably outnumbered the nearby population of Parry Sound. For one week in August, a group of cottagers confronted the wild in an epic man versus nature battle. This brave (and wild) group of cottagers were the Bruinekools.
It quickly became apparent to us cottagers who called the shots around the camp. It certainly was not the camp-owner (though as we shall see, he valiantly tried). As we settled down on the first night after arriving at the cottage, we were serenaded by the haunting howling of the coyotes. Not to be outdone, the racoons engaged in some turf war over our garbage can. It was at that point that we were glad that the thin ply wood walls were keeping the coyotes and racoons outside. Sleep continued to evade the habitants of our cottage (and I suspect all the cottages in the camp) when the mice decided to come out. We are not talking about one little mouse either – the cottage was teaming with mice, and they had the run of the place. The Bruinekools do not like mice. I recall one event many years ago when a mouse ran across our living room floor at home. Mom was suddenly transformed into an Olympic gymnast as she pirouetted out of the path of the mouse. I have inherited this distaste for these little rodents as well, but that's another story for another day.
The camp-owner was greeted by a line of Bruinekools at his door the next morning. They all had the same request: mousetraps. He told them that the cottages all had traps underneath their sinks and bade them good luck. The Bruinekools scurried back to their respective cottages to wage war on the dreaded foe. Mom opened our cupboard and found a whole mouse trap contraption. It was a three foot two by four with about five mouse traps tacked on. It dawned on us that this camp probably had a bit of a mouse problem.
Later that day, we gathered at the beach. It was a beautiful beach and big enough for all of us to put our chairs in a big circle. Bruinekools love to chat and the mice excitement from the night before was a hot topic.
“Those flippin’ mice were so loud last night!”
“We had one run across our bed!”
“I was almost attacked by one when I was in the bathroom!”
“I was on top of the furniture more than I was on the floor!”
While we were chatting about our mice travails, a big fat snake slithered into the middle of our circle and stopped. The Bruinekools do not like snakes. The Bruinekools are not typically an agile group, but the athletic moves that were exhibited at that moment were truly impressive. Lawn chairs were vaulted, kids were scooped up, and trees were climbed. After a few minutes, we slowly made our way back to the lawn chair circle. The snake was still there and was apparently having some difficulties with its last meal. What appeared to be the snake’s tongue turned out to be some kind of tail. The snake unhinged it’s jaws and started making weird noises. Slowly the mystery meal started to come out of the snake. Our fear of snakes was momentarily forgotten as we tried to guess what was coming out of the snake. Finally, the snake finished regurgitating it’s lunch. It was a mudpuppy.
Before this holiday, I didn’t know what a mudpuppy was, nor did I care to know. Derek, who was the resident animal expert (and also in his glory amidst all the wildlife), informed everyone that a mudpuppy was like a big salamander. It seemed that the snake did not like the taste of mudpuppy. After recovering from throwing up an animal that weighed just as much as he did, the snake started to slither away. Much to our shock, the mudpuppy’s eyes popped open and he headed in the opposite direction. Now there were two wild animals on the loose (Due to this event, the Bruinekools also do not like mudpuppies). Screaming, leaping, back-flips, and panic ensued as the two animals disappeared. After the coast was clear, the Bruinekools collected their dignity, and returned to their mostly upturned lawn chairs.
The next morning at the beach, everyone was curious as to what cottager caught the most mice in their traps. If the other traps were anything like the multi-trap in our cottage, the haul was pretty big. Our traps had to be emptied and reset after about half an hour. The mice population was still unhampered and undeterred. It was like a relentless attack of Orcs at Helms Deep.
The lake was beautiful and pristine. The camp had a great dock for jumping off and swimming from. We quite enjoyed the water until Scott jumped onto something un-water-like. He popped to the surface, reported that he landed on something, and then proceeded to tread water above the surface. A dark shadowy circular object floated up to the surface right where Scott had jumped in. Calm instructions followed from one of the Bruinekool cousins. “Swim for your lives! Snapping turtle!” Michael Phelps wouldn’t have been able to swim any faster than this group of cousins. Bruinekools do not like snapping turtles.
The Bruinekools all crowed onto the dock to watch the snapping turtle float around. We were later told that the snapping turtle had made his home under the dock. All attention was focussed on the turtle until we heard a loud gunshot. Our fearless camp-owner had come from nowhere and shot the turtle. Our nerves were already in tatters at this point, and the unexpected gunshot put some of us over the edge. The camp-owner put his rifle aside, grabbed a large hook and scooped the dead turtle out of the water. Apparently this was routine stuff for him. Dinner was effectively cancelled that evening.
Not everyone was struggling with the nature around them. The matron of the family, Oma Bruinekool, took it upon herself to feed the Canadian Geese that were bobbing in the water just outside of her cottage. As nice as this was, she didn’t realize that the geese were not real; they were decoys meant to lure real geese into the range of our gun toting camp-owner. It was suggested that she re-visit the eye doctor for a new prescription.
It sure was an exciting and fun week, and one that stands out from all other vacations. You may be wondering if we ever went back there again. The answer is no. The coyotes, racoons, mice, snakes, and mud puppies could have been tolerated, but the snapping turtles tipped the balance. When it came to the call of the Wild, the Bruinekools did not care to answer.