We paddled up Mud Creek in kayaks and rested along the shallows of a willow bank. We listened to the relaxing sounds of water and wind through the reeds, until we heard the distant barking of a dog.
Mud Creek is a skinny creek, and a barking dog in the backwoods of Northern Wisconsin could mean that dog was going to come and get us.
“It’s coming closer,” I warned Bill.
We waited and listened, and determined that, yes, it most certainly was coming closer.
I quickly conjured up an escape plan, “If it comes, I’m ditching this boat and running up there,” and I pointed to the opposite side of the creek.
Then out of the woods bounded a red dog that began growling at us from the bank. It had found us.
My heart was beating hard, and I said to Bill, “ Oh God, it’s going to come in here and get us.”
He tried to reassure me that it wouldn’t do that as it made its way down to the edge of a large rock, where it barked and growled some more… and then Bill asked me, “Do they do that?”
“Of course they do that!”, I answered and I poised myself to leap from my kayak.
To make things even more alarming, I was frightened to see the dog only had one eye. What happened to its other eye?
There was no escaping the dog in our kayaks. He was blocking the only way back down the skinny creek; to paddle past him would mean his jaws would be exactly level to our faces and throats. The only way around the dog was to get out of our kayaks and carry them up the opposite bank, which was steep, and with a dog after us, there would be no way to out-run it.
Anyway, that escape plan quickly became obsolete, because suddenly there was another barking dog guarding the other side of the creek, a black one. This dog only had one eye as well, but it was missing the eye opposite of the red dog’s missing eye, and so, we were surrounded by one-eyed dogs, and there was no way out.
Then a couple of rambley old ladies came through. We were relieved, thinking these dogs were certainly theirs and they would call them back to their sides…but they didn’t.
They stood over the bank and got a look at us in our predicament. They laughed like witches and asked us, “Do you have anything?”
Bill’s head twitched, like it does when he’s angry and confused, and both of us couldn’t comprehend what she was really asking us, because she had a strange accent, backwoods accent.
Bill shouted back, “What do you mean ‘have anything’?”
She repeated herself, “Do you have anything?”
I watched Bill try to decipher what the Mud Creek hillbilly was asking for, until he finally responded with, “No, I don’t have anything…no meat…no sausage… nothing!”
That seemed to do the trick. The hillbillys called in their dogs and laughed their witchy laughs, and disappeared back into the forest.
We got out of there immediately; paddled back down stream, giggling about the meat and sausage. What made Bill say that?
The water had become strong and choppy and was pushing us into the reeds and mud. We had to trick the chilly wind that seemed to have come to life and was trying to send us back in the direction of the one-eyed dogs and I was reminded of how quickly water can turn on you.
We were relieved to finally reach the shores of Bill’s grandma’s house, and we left our summer by the banks of that river, with the witches and the hillbillys and the one-eyed dogs.
Bye summer, until next time…