“Whaddya mean there’s a Agateland?” I asked my brother, Jerry.
“All the agates that wash up on shore start in the middle of the lake,” he said, with a ten-year-old’s superiority.
“How did you find out?” I asked.
“You’re five years younger ‘n me,” he said, smoothly. “There’s a lotta stuff you don’t know.”
Gullible was my middle name. When Jerry and my big sister, Laura, were older, they pulled each other skiing behind our small fishing boat. They would slow down and let the skier drop into the waters at the mouth of the Gull River. The dam regulated the water levels of Gull Lake and they said “everyone knew” that snapping turtles congregated at the river’s mouth.
I once saw a dinosaur-like snapper laying eggs behind our house. Its shell was bigger than a hubcap and blubbery flesh oozed like congealed bacon grease from the edges of its armored back. Their strong mouths could hang on forever and the only way to make a snapping turtle let go was to turn it on its back. Since I wasn’t strong enough to flip that gargantuan beast, I ran for home, thinking—did the turtle know that it had to let go of its prey once it landed on its back?
As soon as we kids were old enough to toddle, Mom taught us to identify agates—sometimes red, whorled with concentric eyes and lines circling from a dark center like a bon-bon with a secret filling. I wondered if the agate’s rings revealed age, like the circles inside a tree trunk.
Agateland has held sway with legendary proportions in my mind. I’ve decided there must be a portal—a gatekeeper—to its treasures. Rubbing the portal agate, like summoning a genie, would beseech it to release agates into the lakebed. Only the portal has the power to set the agates free to roam amongst the broad plains of seaweed—rolling slowly when the lake ice heaves in winter, tumbling more rapidly with the high winds and currents of summer—and surely paving the highway for the massive snapping turtles that migrate to lay their eggs near the headwaters of the river.
And when the agates finally wash up like buried treasure, precious golden nuggets that Gull Lake has panned onto the shores of Pike Bay, one small girl can once again live happily ever after.