By Melissa Moylan
Ever since I was a little girl, I would go down to Ponce de Leon, Florida and visit my grandpa. The times I went and saw my grandpa in Florida were on family vacations to go see him which would last for two weeks. Every time I went there, I had an absolutely wonderful time. Every day I was outdoors doing something with my cousins, sisters, and/or grandpa.
My grandpa had two houses and one of the houses was located in the “sticks,” (it is a forty-five minute drive to the closest store or city). The house was made of wood; it was like a wood cabin with deciduous trees all around. Every road that lead to his house were dirt roads, that if it were to rain a lot you would be stuck unless you had the right car to get out. The rain would make the roads turn to thick mud that was really hard to go through. I remember one time, my dad decided to drive on the road the day after it rain all day and ended up getting stuck in the mud. Needless to say we had to call my uncle to come pull us out with his truck. My dad ended up cover in mud from pushing the car in the mud. I stayed in the car and I’m pretty sure my dad fell down in the mud a few times as well. That is a memory I will never forget, my dad outside helping push the car while my uncle was using his car to pull it.
The wood cabin was handmade by one of my grandpa’s relatives, the porch was huge and I would love to sit on it at night with my mom and just look up at the stars. You could always just see the stars so perfectly out there in the middle of nowhere. I do not remember exactly what the stars looked like that night, like the formation of them. I do remember how clear they looked out at my grandpa’s house; there were no city lights or smoke to block out the light of the stars. There were just the stars and the sky. All we needed outside were the light from the stars when we were on the porch; I just wish I could remember more of the formation that the stars were in. There were two sections to the house that were together but separate at the same time (connected but cannot get into one section from the other). The first section had the front door which led to the section with the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom for my grandparents. The other section you had to turn to your left and walk about fifteen steps to reach the door, where there were three beds, this section was the area that I always slept in (my parents and sisters stayed there too). This section was not small but at the same time it was too huge, it was big, big enough for five people to keep their luggage in there and sleep.
I would always wake up every morning in that room to the sound of a rooster cock-a-doodle-doodling very loudly. Have you ever heard a rooster making that noise? It sounds nothing like what it does in those children’s cartoons. Its more real and the sound at first is very annoying but that annoying factor goes away once you get used to it. It was as if the rooster was right near the window where I slept. I can still remember clear as day one memory or the rooster that was sad. One morning, I woke up as usual to the rooster doing his thing and mid cock-a-doodle-doodle, the rooster stop abruptly. The abrupt stopped makes me think of a someone in mid scream and someone else putting their hand over the screaming person’s mouth. My only assumption is that a fox, or some sort of animal killed the rooster and ate it. I cannot be sure as to what really happened but can only assume to what happened which was on that morning, the rooster became some animal’s food.
My grandpa always told me about various animals that lived in the area around his house seeing that it was out in the “sticks.” He told me about how there were black panthers all around in the area. Hearing about the black panthers being around the house made me scared but excited at the same time. Black panthers are my favorite animal, I have not seen one up real close in my life but there is just something about black panthers that draw me to them. My grandpa told me a story about how at night, if you’re lucky you can catch a glimpse of the panthers in a tree but warned me not to be outside without an adult because it can be very dangerous at night out where he lived.
Needless to say, when my grandpa got a second house (three miles away from the wood cabin one) it was still out in the “sticks” with even more trees in the background. This time the room I slept in with my two sisters faced the backyard. Every night when it was time for bed, my sisters and I were not tired, so while they played games with each other, I stared out the window. Every night I looked out the window hoping to see something exciting. One night, my ultimate wish to catch a glimpse of something excited occurred, I was the only one who saw it. I saw what appeared to be a black panther jumping from one tree to another. It was a quick movement, it was like you had to be watching the trees in order to have seen it, once it jumped from one tree to another, you could not see it anymore. It was almost like a ghost or magic, once second it’s there and the next second it’s gone. To this very day my sisters do not believe me and say that I made the whole thing up. I was ten years old and saw a big black animal jump from one tree to another; my assumption is that it was a black panther. Since the panthers have been known to be in that area and more prominent at night, it made sense to me that it was a panther that I saw. I told my grandpa about what I saw and he agreed with me and told me that what I think I saw was what it really was and not to let other people tell me otherwise just because they did not see it. I’m not going to let others like my sister deter me from what I know I saw just because they did not see it. Just because they did not see it, does not mean that I did not see it. Some things in nature you see real quick the things are there in gone in seconds.
A few nights after I saw the black panther, I happened to see this frog on the window. Which caught my sister’s attention that there was a frog on the window, and all decided to get close to the window and look at it. The looking at the frog did not last too long, it lasted about a minute or so. Our observing it was interrupted by a snake shooting up and snatching the frog. Sometimes I play the image in my in slow motion just so I can make sense of it. It was cool to see a snake “jump up” and open up its mouth and engulf the frog. I can only assume that it was not your typical garter snake because garter snakes cannot open their mouths big enough for even a small frog, their mouths and head are just not that big. I think this might have caused my fear of snakes because the frog was just there doing nothing and the snake had to come and ruin the frog’s fun. Our natural instinct was to scream which caused my mom and dad to run into the room we were in and see what was up. When my parents came in, my mom thought it was because there was a spider near the ceiling in a corner above one of the beds. When we told her what really made us screamed, she just laughed at us and told us to get used to it and refused to kill the spider that was in the room (as my sisters kept asking her to do). I was voted to sleep on the bed under the spider, not going to lie I am extremely afraid of spiders, I slept covered head to toe in a blanket. The spider did not end up moving in the night.
I loved going down to my grandpa’s in the summer, it was the highlight of my summer every summer. At his house is where my love for peaches and pears developed, he had a peach and a pear tree growing next to his house. The peaches and pears were normally ripe by the time we went there for vacation, and every day we would all sit on his porch, he walked over to the peach tree and picked one out and took out his pocket knife and started slicing the peach piece by piece. He would give me a piece and then eat one himself.No one else in my family would eat either of the fruits, so most days everyone else would go inside and make lunch or watch TV inside while my grandpa and I were outside sharing a peach or pear. It was relaxing to just be able to pick one of the fruits and just eat it with my grandpa and stare off straight ahead into the yard and trees. The peaches and pears tasted perfect every time and were the size of them and the quality they were in were like the pears and peaches you find in stores.
Going down to Ponce de Leon, Florida every summer and spending two weeks in the “sticks” has made me grow to love the outdoors and become very curious about things out there in the world and things that occur at night in the wilderness. Out of my two sisters and me, I was the closest one to my grandpa. When he took us each on a four wheeler, one at a time on the dirt roads after it rained, he would spend extra time with me and would go full speed through the muddy puddles, splashing mud everywhere. It could deal with hanging out with him on the porch almost every day eating fruit with him, helping him some days with gutting a fish that he caught early in the morning or listening to his stories. All I can say is that whenever I visited him down in Florida, it was always my favorite, I always had the best time and saw something new out there every time, which is why my favorite times in nature have always been down at his homes in the “sticks” of Florida State.