One dollar per bag is what Dad told us that he would pay us. It sounded like easy money to Billy and I. All we had to do was fill garbage bags with moss.
The moss was needed to fill the walls in the icehouse as insulation. Large blocks of ice were kept here in the tall old wooden structure that sat there looking like it might fall over in a strong wind. It had extremely high walls that didn’t meet the tin roof and there was a ramp that extended from the dock to the entrance. The blocks were cut out of the lake during the winter and hauled into the icehouse where they were piled on top of each other. The ice had to last all summer long to keep the fish cold and so sawdust was then put on top of them and with the moss filled walls; the old building was kept dark and cool. It was also a fun, forbidden place to play.
We happily headed out on the trail that took us across the island. Mom came with us to show us where exactly the moss grew and of course our faithful dog, Bruno, came along too.
At the end of the trail, which was only a five-minute hike, the moss grew on the side of a hill sloping down to the lake. On this side of the island you could see far across a big stretch of water on Red Lake. It was absolutely breathtaking and I stood there spell-bound under the tall pine trees, enraptured by the waves on the blue lake below the blue sky.
This would be a wonderful job, I thought, and mom left us there to commence our employment. For a while, Billy and I competed with each other as to who was going to fill more bags and get more money. We started near the bottom of the hill and slowly moved upwards.
I don’t know what happened, if there was a breeze blowing in the trees or a squirrel jumping overhead, but suddenly I realized that we were alone. I looked out toward the lake and the beautiful lake was gone. All I could see were tall, dark trees with their branches sweeping down around us. Instant claustrophobia. I looked at Billy and he was looking at me too. I could tell he was thinking the same thing as I was. It was spooky there in the trees amongst the moss.
The sun had moved and shadows played games with us. Neither of us said anything to the other about being scared but we filled the rest of our bags as fast as we could and ran back across the trail trying to beat each other back to the yard. The next day we had to go back to retrieve the bags that we had left behind in our quick departure. Neither of us wanted to admit to the other that we were afraid so it was never spoken of again.
That was the end of the easy money. I think we made about ten dollars, which wasn’t bad considering the terror that we had to go through.
A few years later when I was older and going through my romantic stage, I remember going back across that trail alone to the other side of the island. I lay there in the moss, looking up at the sky, trying to be brave. I daydreamed that there was a Tarzan-like man who lived in the spooky trees and that he was watching me and would swoop down, pick me up and carry me off to live in the trees with him. It was a good fantasy but I was too afraid to stay there for too long, so it was a short fantasy.