This is a true story. I was there the night of this momentous event. Most, but not all, of the Jaycees had nicknames, and I used them, or created them, for this story, and I know the history of some of those nicknames. Remember, I became a writer in my retirement so anything that happened in the past could become a story.
The Story of Stump
The guy soon to become known as Stump, moved to Hudson, Iowa over the 4th of July holiday in 1974 with his wife and two children. A few months before, he had lived in the Country Terrace Mobile Home Court a few miles north of town. While living there, a co-worker, Frito, knocked on his door. The Hudson Jaycees were selling grape jelly to support a charity of the Iowa Jaycees. Frito, who worked in the same building as Stump, approached Stump a few days later and asked him to join the Hudson Jaycees. Stump accepted, and to say his life, and his wife’s life, was changed forever is an understatement (could there be more stories to be written???).
Stump was an active member, and his wife became active in the LBJ’s (Ladies Behind the Jaycees). They both participated in Jaycee and LBJ community projects. They attended management and leadership courses offered by the national Jaycee organization. Combined with the leadership skills they learned as members of Amway, together they began their journey to be active members of their new home, the Hudson Community.
They made many new friends and their social life became more active than it was the previous ten years when they lived in rural areas and the mobile home court. The Hudson Jaycees social life functioned via a men’s group, a lady’s group, and a couples group.
On a hot and sultry Friday night in the summer of 1975 a small group of the guys decided to go out and gig frogs for a frog leg feast. Frito, Thumper, Smuck, Snyd, Sparky, and Stump loaded up a couple of small jon boats, their frog gigs, duckbill poles, and a few coolers of cold refreshments for the hot night ahead.
As usual, somebody thought they knew a shortcut to Otter Creek Lake; it was only a few miles of gravel road. Well, a few missed intersections, and 15 miles of gravel road later, the group stumbled upon Otter Creek Lake; next time, just take the blacktop roads!
As a palette of colors from another magnificent Iowa sunset was fading, the boys put their jon boats in the water. Snyd and Stump would work the west side of the lake. The other boat would work the east side, and the others would walk the shoreline until they met at the north end of the lake.
As usual, the boys made arrangements with the park ranger to be there after the 10:30 closing time. The ranger granted permission with his usual conditions, they behave themselves and be quiet. On this night, they didn’t quite abide with being quiet.
This group of outstanding citizens-to-be, paddled out to survey their respective areas while they waited for darkness. As they quietly paddled they listened for the croaking of the big bullfrogs that inhabited the bath tub lake so typical of county lakes in Iowa. The shorelines were shallow with grass, weeds, brush, and tree stumps. The frogs hid in this cover. The lake gently sloped from the shoreline to a depth of fourteen to twenty feet at the center of the lake. As the night grew on, the shallow shoreline would prove important.
The hot sultry night soaked Snyd and Stump with sweat as they paddled along. It was time for them to let the boat coast and have a refreshment. They popped the tops, took a big chug, and let out a big ahhh….but not too loud; they didn’t want to scare the frogs. Their thirst was quenched, momentarily, as Snyd grabbed the flashlight and his gig and in search of frogs they went.
Stump guided the boat in the shallow shoreline water with the duckbill pole. They listened for the croak of the big bull frogs, and silently slithered through the water toward the sound. Snyd’s flashlight would find the croaker, and the bright light would hold the frog in place as long as they were quiet. Stump eased the boat into position and Snyd thrust the gig into the frog. Into the wet gunny sack went the frog with hopes of many more to come.
Their quest for the big croaker frogs continued with success. Now, it was time for Snyd and Stump to change places. However, a pause was required, on this hot and increasingly sultry night, to address their thirst, and maybe, just maybe, more than two tops were popped. Refreshed, they continued to gig frogs with appropriate pauses, on this ever increasing sultry night, in the attempt to quench their thirst. They continued to gig frogs and added to the gunny sack until it was nearing midnight.
After changing places several times, and a refreshment or six, Stump was gigging and Snyd was polling the boat. Suddenly, a big croak echoed through the darkness. Stump’s flashlight scanned the shoreline in search of the big croaker, and the light caught the eyes of a large bullfrog. The largest they had seen that night, and a contender for the largest of the summer.
Stump was very excited and raised his gig in preparation as Snyd silently polled the boat into position. The excited Stump thrust the gig at the BIG frog. In his excitement over the BIG bullfrog, Stump made two errors. He let the light move off the frog’s eyes, and he made a noise. A noise; ….. it was more like a war whoop. There was a splash in the water,….. not a good sign.
Stump shined the light back where the frog sat; the frog was gone. Stump’s gig was stuck forlornly in the barren old tree stump where the frog had sat. It was a pitiful sight to behold. One syllable words, and combinations thereof, were being uttered by Stump. Snyd was laughing loud enough to scare every frog on the lake.
Stump leaned out over the bow of the boat and grabbed the handle to retrieve his frog gig. He pulled and pulled, but it wouldn’t give. He shook it back and forth, still no luck. In his excitement, Stump had thrust it so forcibly that the tines were buried deep in the tree stump. Snyd was laughing hilariously. Well, there was only one thing for Stump to do. He jumped out of the boat into the lake; that was a big splash and heard all over the lake, the campground, and probably the ranger’s residence. The laughter and the splash were heard by the other boat across the lake. Nobody wore life jackets. These Jaycees were at the age they still believed they were invincible.
Now, Stump weighed twice as much as Snyd, and the laws of physics were being applied. The bow of the boat rockets upward as Snyd tried to grab on to anything he could to stay in the boat. The bow goes up, and the stern goes down, dumping several gallons of water into the stern of the boat. Snyd is now in uncontrollable laughter and rolling around in the bottom of the wet boat as he tried to find his flashlight. Snyd grabed his flashlight and shined it on all the commotion in the lake as the guys in the other boat yelled across the lake, “We’re coming, is everybody ok?”
Snyd saw Stump, waist deep in the shallow shore line water, wrestling the frog gig with both hands trying to get it loose. Stump continued to communicate with the gig as he wrestled with it in pure frustration. The gig finally came loose and got pitched into the boat. Snyd was laughing so hard he could hardly sit up and Stump was still uttering one syllable words. Every frog in the county is now hiding in silence.
Stump, who had no patience, said nothing as he swung his leg over the side of the small boat and climbed in, almost rolling the boat over, and causing Snyd to fall off his seat again, still laughing so hard he couldn’t get up. Stump is now laughing with Snyd, and as the laughter continues, the other boat is getting near and yelling, “Are you guys alright?” Well, so much for being quiet tonight. Snyd and Stump yelled back, “We’re ok.”
The boys gather round and Snyd commences telling the tale of the events of the night. They all have another great laugh as they quench their thirst on this hot and sultry night. Being late and noisy, the boys decide to take their two full gunny sacks and depart, hoping to still be in the good graces of the park ranger.
On Saturday night, the boys had a frog leg fry with their wives and other Jaycees. The tale of the big frog and the gig stuck in the tree stump was retold amid great laughter, and on this night, this nice young man who joined the Jaycee’s a year ago, was anointed with his nickname. The nickname stuck to him harder than the gig in the tree stump. After that night, he only heard is given name on formal occasions. His “friends” made him a memento of a big sturgeon spear stuck in a log and Mrs. Stump made him a mug in her ceramics class. The mug had a picture of an illusive bullfrog and his nickname.
So, “Stump’s Stories” became the title for the stories I’ve written for my grandkids about my adventures in life and posted on my website. I was asked to write this story so a bunch of Jaycee Retired Roosters and their wives could recall some of the best times in our lives and for those who weren’t part of the Hudson community in the ‘70s. Those of us who were part of the Hudson Jaycee’s in the ‘70s feel blessed to have been part of that organization and part of the Hudson Community.
Mrs. Stump now resides in heaven, and Stump has moved away from Hudson, but when he returns to Hudson he still turns his head when old Jaycees or firefighters holler “Hey Stump.”