The Bottom of Bethel Pit MAG

September 23, 2009
By skyball BRONZE, Gallatin, Tennessee
skyball BRONZE, Gallatin, Tennessee
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

If you look carefully, you will see that the threads of oral tradition are woven tightly into the fabric of most families. These threads bind the members together while closing any gaps between generations. My family calls these threads “yarns,” and those who weave them are the “yarnwinders.” All yarns contain elements of truth, but as anyone knows, other things get entangled in them too, and well, that's when things get interesting. Yarn is meant to stretch a bit.

The yarn I am about to tell you was handed down from my dad. As a child, each night I would ask him to tell me about Bethel Pit before I went to sleep. I rarely stayed awake to hear the end, which will leave you to judge how much stretch exists in this yarn.

A thick, sticky fog hung over Bethel Pit that late summer night. Yet my dad, my dad's dad, and my dad's dad's dad decided to venture into the pit for one last round of frog hunting for the summer. Although they could barely see three feet in front of their faces, the throng of frog voices rising from all over the pit was nearly deafening.

Silently, the three hunters slid their little boat into the dark water. My dad sat in front with the spotlight. My dad's dad sat in the middle with the spear. My dad's dad's dad pushed the boat from the shore and steered with the oar.

With each splash of water or throaty croak, my dad would focus his spotlight and my dad's dad would plunge the spear deep into the murky marsh. Yet each time it came up empty.

An uneasy feeling began to overcome the threesome; it appeared that the sounds were only phantoms in the fog. How often had they hunted this pit with great success? Even tonight, the promise of the catch seemed to be all around them. However, the throaty voices and sudden splashes only mocked the hunters' attempts to capture their prey.

Suddenly the night became deathly quiet. For a moment, it seemed as if the pit had formed a giant whirlpool that had sucked up the sounds of the night and drowned them in its murky depths. Only the pounding of three human hearts drummed into the night. Seconds felt like hours. To this day, it is impossible to say exactly how much time passed. Perhaps, the stillness of the night managed to capture time in its spell and make it stand still as well. An eternity passed through the hands of that moment.

Then, from somewhere deep in the bowels of the pit, a distant rumble ripped through the silence. A throng of croaking and splashing exploded with a thunderous roar that sent ripples that wrinkled the face of the pit. In unison, the three men turned toward the front of the boat. With shaking hands, my dad aimed the beam from his lamp. As the light fought to penetrate the blackness, two huge orbs grabbed their attention and gleamed like a pair of giant yellow moons hanging just above the water within an arm's reach of the boat.

Legends had been told over the years about a giant frog that lived at the bottom of Bethel Pit, but no one really believes such things. You might think that just as every fisherman dreams of landing that legendary prize fish, every frog hunter dreams of catching that legendary frog. However, on that night, these three frog hunters decided that a swift retreat from the murky waters was the best response to this particular situation.

Their boat skimmed across the water to shame the swiftest motor craft and nearly flew onto its trailer. As they made their way home, they decided to tell the family that they had grown hungry for pancakes instead of frog legs for breakfast and had simply called it a night.

There is a strange postscript to this yarn that my dad spun for me. Last year, the two of us went to eat at a little restaurant called Willow Pond. We ordered frog legs for dinner and nearly fell off our chairs when the waitress brought a plate with legs that looked more like something that came off a turkey or maybe even an ostrich. As we were leaving, we met the owner and my dad asked him if he knew of a place called Bethel Pit. In response the man just smiled.

The author's comments:
In our family, it is important that we sit down for dinner each night and talk about the day. As a child, that continued with stories before bedtime and most of these stories were not in books, but family stories. This story is my version of my favorite "family" story. I believe that sharing stories in a family is something that creates lasting bonds.

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