Pesticides and cow poop. That was the reality. But it didn’t stop us. We jumped right in.
Time: about ten years old. Place: Emerald Lake in Saskatchewan.
Let me explain. It can get sticky hot in Saskatchewan, long summer days, and no respite from the heat because we were land bound without many lakes. Emerald Lake was manmade, and surrounded by cow fields and pasture. That meant with any given rainfall, what was in the fields would be washed into the water.
It showed. I doubt Emerald Lake would pass an e-coli test like the ones they do for Lake Ontario to assess how healthy the water is for swimming. Add in some pesticides and you had quite a brew. The water in Emerald Lake was not green… that must have been a bit of hopeful name-calling. It was actually kind of brown and filled with silt that would cloud the water as soon as you put your feet in.
There was however a life form that thrived in this environment. Leeches. Perhaps the chemicals could account for their size. They were huge. The thing I remember most about Emerald Lake, was those leeches.
This is how it would play out. You would go out on the dock. There was a distant buoy we would swim out to. A kid would jump in and the rest would crowd the end of the dock trying to get a view. The thing was, as soon as a body hit the water, a phalanx of long black forms would ribbon out from under the dock and make a beeline for that swimmer. He or she would arrive back at the dock, covered in leeches. It would become a macabre necessity to have a lighter on hand so as to get the leeches off.
In a bizarre way, the leeches themselves became the thing. You went there to swim in theory, but really it was a spectator sport. You really wanted to watch someone jump in so that you could ooh and aah in disgust over the leeches. It was nature unfolding in front of your eyeballs.
And those famous words that in life have preceded so much. “I dare you”. The funny thing is that it seems to be hardwired into human nature, that this challenge rarely goes unanswered. It is not that someone ever says “I dare you”, and nothing happens. Even if there is a pause, someone ultimately steps up. A champion enters the spotlight and the crowd surrounding the arena cheers.
We know about “I dare you” because it is the clarion call that makes the “Darwin Awards” a viable thing, those deaths that come from the kind of human stupidity that makes you shake your head. I know. I have dodged a few brushes with consequences that do not bear mention. And then there are those people every single year who die taking selfies on the edge of a cliff or a very dangerous waterfall. YouTube is a repository for the last acts of the daring.
And yet we still jump in. Why?
There are things that are in the very nature of being human. Hard wired, as it were. Despite this, they are largely a mystery and yet inexplicable, though we should logically be able to find words that bear up some of life’s most strange transactions. Emerald lake was one of those. We claimed to be there for swimming. But what we really went for was the entertainment we got from watching the one in the water. We were there because of the leeches, not in spite of them.
Is mankind stupid? I don’t know. I would like to hear from the experts on that one. But they are out somewhere solving problems of physics and chemistry because they are curious. Someone said “I dare you” and they took the bait and turned it into a vocation. I doubt much of interest would happen in life without “I dare you”.
If you can account for this then you are a wiser man than I. You likely could explain as well, the success of TV shows like Jackass, and what passes in college dorms for entertainment during Frosh Week. You can’t can you? But it won’t stop you from trying. It also will not stop you from taking the bait yourself. In fact I am betting you will jump right in.
Go ahead. I dare you.