Mudbugs, Muskmelon, and Mayhem
by Bridgette M. Yaxley

As Emma lazily wandered around her aunt and uncle's rustic-styled farmhouse looking for something to preoccupy herself with one hot August evening, her older cousin led her quietly to the kitchen and then quickly out the back door. Emma was almost eleven-years-old, innocently following her cousin's lead down a familiar country road in Orleans County, only about a half hour or so after dinner had finished, as they set off on an adventure. Kicking gravel with the toes of their beaten and old Nike sneakers while wiping the sweat from their necks as they went, the girls began their journey.

After walking for a while and leaving a path of dust as they went, only stopping momentarily to watch mammoth-sized trucks filled with onions and beans speed by like they were drag racing to a finish line, Emma and her cousin crossed a small dilapidated bridge. Underneath that bridge the girls found the trickle of a creek washing over stones of various sizes, shapes, and soil as the water flowed inconsistently; however, they quickly noticed the water was clear enough to reveal little mudbugs scattering about in all directions. To Emma's childlike mind, these creatures looked like tiny lobster, but were creepy and crawly nonetheless.

Once their fascination with mudbugs was over with, the girls left that dilapidated bridge and continued on their adventure as the pockets of Emma's britches clambered every second step she took due to that quick "pit stop" they made in the kitchen before their journey began. Finally, Emma's cousin stopped walking and quickly motioned to hurry up and follow her off somewhere unfamiliar to the right side of the road, just up yonder past the trees and beyond the thick brush.

Emma was excited and quite curious at this moment to see what possibly awaited a few steps away. Emma had actually lost sight of her cousin, but within seconds was able to follow her voice. Much to Emma's surprise, she found her cousin carefully stepping over rows of muskmelon, still beautifully ripe on the vine! She told Emma to quickly catch up to her because she claimed to have found the "perfect spot."

As Emma hopped over rows of melons and approached, she watched intently as her cousin expertly sliced a melon right from the vine and then cracked it wide open with a razor-sharp knife she had brought from home. "Wow!" exclaimed Emma. She asked her cousin if anyone would mind if they sat and ate the fruit. Her cousin replied saying, "No, look around...there's PLENTY of fruit to go around; rows of it - I'm sure they don't mind sharing."

The girls ate one juicy melon after another as their faces were now covered in this thick sweetness. Seeds from the innards were scattered about at their feet while they shamelessly continued to feast and gorge on that which was not their own.

Exactly how long Emma and her cousin may have stayed in that field of endless rows of muskmelon is still a mystery as they were slicing off fruit to not just eat, but to also bring home. However, right as they were preparing to leave, Emma and her cousin's eyes suddenly widened. The girls gasped with regret and second thoughts about this spontaneous adventure they had embarked upon when they heard the sound of ferocious hunting dogs yelping and barking, moving closer in their direction, when a farmer laid claim to that very field they were standing in with an echo of gunfire! Clearly, it was definitely time to get up and run! And run they did!! In fact, Emma and her cousin dropped every melon, spoon, and knife - possibly leaving an untied sneaker in their wake as they ran with their hearts pounding and fearing for their very lives!

With their hearts racing, chests gasping for air, and both girls afraid to look back, they raced over that dilapidated bridge, dashed down that country road and through the same grassy front yard that seemed so vast now, finally making it up onto the safety of the family porch. Without hesitating, both girls sat down quickly next to Emma's aunt and uncle, breathing heavily, eyes locked onto the road they had just run down, while nervously shaking in their shoes - or at least the shoes they were still wearing.

Emma's Aunt and Uncle quite casually inquired about what the girls had exactly been up to earlier that evening as they took turns nonchalantly sipping homemade sun tea while continuing to pit cherries on the front porch.

"NOTHIN'!" the girls both rapidly gasped in unison after giving each other "the look" kids typically do after shaking their heads in agreement and with a wink so as NOT to snitch on each other! However, this automatically prompted Emma's Aunt and Uncle to ALSO exchange that immediate and often dreaded eyebrow-raising glance of skepticism adults master so well. It was evident the girls had some explaining to do, which led to the inquisition of their summer.

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