It was the first of my eight summers on the Yawgoog staff. I was 14 years old and a rather skinny kid at that. My recall of the events of those weeks is as vivid today as 71 years ago when they actually took place. Yawgoog is a memorable place for me.
My shift off from work on that warm July afternoon found me with a fishing rod and tackle box in hand nearing Yawgoog Pond dam. A fat, 3-foot-long water snake was stretched out, sunning himself on the gently sloping ledge. I quickly cut a forked stick, snuck up behind him & pinned him down. He thrashed wildly as I grabbed him just behind his head where he couldn’t get me with his teeth or fangs but he quickly wrapped himself around my arm all the way up to my shoulder. I had him, but he also had me.
The Scouts at Musketeer and Sleepy Hollow spotted me and my snake and followed me on my walk to the nature den. Naturalist Johnny Appleseed peeled the snake off my arm and dropped him safely into a large glass-lid container where it began striking harmlessly at every hand that came near the lid. That day I learned, “It’s one thing to be a Pied Piper with a following. It’s another thing to be in the grip of an angry snake.”
Camp Warden Inky Armstrong said he’d show me a new way to fish. We met at Three Point waterfront. He brought the gear. Inky commanded, “You row! To Pickerel Cove.” Inky was a big man – a really big man, and as he made his way to the stern seat the bow lifted up about a foot out of the water and it stayed that way when I took the oarsman’s seat. It was a long row to Pickerel Cove – must have been over a half mile – and I was a tired office boy as I pulled past Submarine Island into the cove. Inky had two 10-foot bamboo poles with fishing lines tied to the outboard ends. With worms for bait we soon caught two perch and cut out their belly fins for bait. Inky instructed, “Just flick the bait out there; when the pickerel takes it he’ll go a few feet. When he stops, wait ten seconds, then give it a yank and you’ve got him.”
We caught two pickerel and called it a day. But the real story that day was that somehow I got the boat and Inky back to Three Point.
It was office policy: “Office personnel only in the office at daily mail-sorting time.” I had the evening shift. Our staff truck driver Ed McLaughlin had fetched the mail from the Rockville P.O. and dropped off the big sack on the office floor. I had opened the bag and put the 4 copies of the Providence Journal on the counter when two gentlemen came in; each took a copy and sat down to read at the big office table. I informed them of the policy and offered that they take the copies across the archway to the Memorial Room but I would need them to start my mail run in about a half hour. That worked out fine. The next morning Chief Williams called me into his office, and asked, “Do you know whom you escorted out of the office last night?” I confessed that I didn’t. Chief then said, “They are both judges in the Rhode Island Court System – one was Chief Justice of the Superior Court, Judge Jeremiah O’Connell and President of Narragansett Council, BSA; the other was Judge Wilfred Budlong, Chairman of the Narragansett Council Camp Committee.” After a pause Chief added,“You did the right thing.”
Author: David Nichols, Yawgoog Camper and Staffman (1940’s)