The Secret of Big Frog Mountain
High in the Appalachian Mountains in a rundown old cabin so neatly tucked away you can’t even see it until you are standing on the front porch lives an old man named Tuck. He’s quite a cantankerous fellow who strongly dislikes almost every person he’s ever met, living
or dead. If it had been up to him, he would have lived the entire life in and around that cabin, just a man living off the land. He knew that one day there would be trouble because he happened to be the only person still alive to know where to find the famed treasure of
Big Frog Mountain. Over the years countless beady eyes money-grubbing snakes known as prospectors came looking for his cabin and never found it. There must have been some kind of magic or more than a few woodland sprites keeping them from finding the cabin
because no one did.
That is until the day Tuck heard a knock on his front door. At first, he ignored it hoping a bear or something had accidentally found its way onto his porch. Then the knock came again, this time accompanied by a timid “Hello, is anyone home?”
The voice startled Tuck, who happened to be standing in the kitchen scrapping together some dinner, so much he almost jumped out of his socks. Not sure, of what else to do he grabbed the meat tenderizer hammer from the countertop and made his way over to the
door. He peeked through the gaps in the wood and saw a tall spindly young man whose long yellow boots and white denim jacket made him resemble a stork as much as he resembled a respectable Tennessee man. The large thin-rimmed black glasses didn’t make
him look any more threatening. Feeling less threatened Tuck relaxed his hold on the hammer.
The stork looking man outside the door took a couple of steps backward and sighed. “That’s too bad.” His eyes twitched as they returned to the door almost as if he’d heard Tuck. “Wait, I know I heard someone.” He said.
Tuck stood still and did his best not to move a muscle.
“Hey, look, you don’t have to come out. My name is Alex, and my truck broke down.” He turned and pointed back down the winding path that leads past the cabin. “I know what it sounds like but I was on my way to meet a friend and go hunting this weekend.
Alex’s request for direction…
Could you maybe point me in the direction of the nearest town or something, and I’ll leave you alone.”
Considering Alex’s request for a few minutes, Tuck rocked back on his heels. “Have you tried going down the mountain?” He shouted through the door after a few moments of silence.
Alex groaned and looked down a bit forlorn. “Yea, that’s how I got here.”
Not able to stop himself Tuck snatched the door open and looked Alex in the eye. “What in the heck were you thinking, driving to the top of Devil’s mountain?”
Startled Alex looked up, Tuck’s bare feet, overalls, and flannel shirt didn’t surprise him at all, the meat tenderizer, however, did. Alex put his hands in the air and looked away. “I told you I got lost.”
“You are at least fifty miles away from where ought to be a city boy. Now get out of here.” Tuck barked at him.”
“Can I show you the GPS location he sent me? Maybe you could tell me how to get there.” Alex asked, fear bubbling in his throat.
“Fine,” Tuck replied.
Carefully Alex pulled a small black phone from his pocket and unlocked the screen with his thumb. “See? It’s right here.” He extended his hand allowing Alex to see the message.
Squinting Tuck studied the screen. “34.99 By -84.52” he mumbled aloud. “That sounds familiar.” He scratched his two-week-old chin whiskers. “Hang on a minute kid. Those
numbers seem familiar.” Tuck turned around and stepped into the house.
Slipping his phone back into his pocket Alex asked. “May I come in?”
“No,” Tuck responded without even thinking about it. A moment later, he came back out
onto the porch with a large map curling around his fist. “You see this? Do you see this?” he said twice pressing the paper against the side of the house. “Right there.” He pointed to an
area of the map seemingly most of the way up a mountain circled in red. “That’s no man’s land.”
Alex pulled his shoulders together and drew a short breath. “What does that mean?”
“That means one of two things. Either your buddy is in serious trouble, or he ain’t no friend.” Tuck said grinding his teeth together. He rubbed his chin and watched the long
shadows extend from the house onto the trees as the sun sank low in the sky. “C’mon son, let’s get some supplies.” Tuck waved Alex inside.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light inside. When they did Alex couldn’t believe how neat the house looked, and old. It felt like he’d stepped back in time to
somewhere in the early 1900s. Everything perfectly cleaned and maintained in addition to being over one hundred years old. He particularly liked the oil lamps and spent quite a while examining the glasswork. “Does this place have running water or electricity?” He asked completely awestruck.
“Humph,” Tuck grunted from the other room. “What do you take me for, some kind of softie? Now come here.”
In the kitchen, Alex gasped when he saw a cabinet as wide as a car chock full of guns.
“You ever use one before?” Tuck asked pulling a hiking backpack onto his shoulders.
Alex shook his head.
“Alright look,” Tuck, said grabbing the smallest gun in the cabinet. “Put it up to your shoulder like this. Lean your head over like this.” His actions followed his words. “When the little thing up there is between the two little things back here, that’s where the bullet hits. Got it?”
Nervously Alex nodded his head. He’d seen guns before and used plenty of them in video games. He wrapped his hands around the cool steel barrel as Tuck handed it to him.
“There’s the trigger, and pull this down and back up to load it.” Tuck made a pumping motion with his hands pretending to cock a gun.
“I think I can handle it,” Alex said not sure if he could, but how hard could it really be?
Tuck handed Alex a box of .22 caliber bullets. “Let’s go.” He motioned to the back kitchen door with his head and stepped out. Quickly walking across the yard to an old shed Tuck
continued to mutter under his breath so softly Alex could not hear what he might be saying. He pulled open the old shed doors and revealed an ancient pickup truck, Alex guessed early 1950s model from his limited knowledge of old vehicles.
Tuck and Alex going together for adventure
The truck engine roared to life as Alex climbed into the surprisingly soft for its age passenger seat. The passenger side of the truck interior looked almost like it had never
been used before, the other side of the truck a completely different story. All the chrome is worn down to bare metal, five perfect oval-shaped dents in the steering wheel where Tuck grabbed it every time he got in the truck and the seat sagged.
“Alright, listen.” Tuck broke the silence. “There’s a reason they call it no man’s land. Ain’t nobody ever gone in, and come back out alive.” He paused to let his icy words hang in the
air. “Except me. You stick close and do everything as I say, exactly how I say it.” He looked at Alex and slowly nodded. “And you might make it back out.”
The last glimpses of sunlight shone through the trees as Alex sat in silence. The engine grumbled loudly and popped a few times in protest for having to go to work so late in the day. The truck bumped along dirt paths barely wide enough or clear enough to pass
through down the side of one mountain and then up the side of another. Each turn seemed more treacherous than the last. Finally, just as the trees in the headlights turned to tall-untamed grass Tuck cut the engine and the truck rolled to a stop.
“Why are we stopping?” Alex asked.
“Shhh,” Tuck whispered putting a finger up to his lips.
“Why are we stopping?” Alex whispered.
Squinting his eyes and looking around Tuck replied. “This is the edge of no man’s land. See the line where the grass fades?” The truck headlights showed just a few feet in front of the
truck all the grass turned from bright spring green to shades of black and brown. “Inside there are rules.” He looked directly at Alex, peering so deeply into his eyes Alex shivered. “No fire that includes trucks and guns.”
“Then why did you give me a gun?” Alex asked.
“I’m getting there,” Tuck replied. “No loud noises also includes guns.”
“Last, and most important, don’t ever draw blood.”
“That includes guns?” Alex asked faking an amused smile.
“You got it.” Tuck smiled. “I gave you a gun because if they are already after you, breaking the rules isn’t going to make it any worse. Heck, you might get lucky and escape if you can shoot enough of them.”
“What are they, exactly?” Alex asked all the humor flushed from his face.
“Don’t know.” Tuck shrugged. “I ain’t never seen one, never broke the rules.”
“Right,” Alex nodded uncomfortably.
Get ready into no man’s land
Kicking the truck door open Tuck got out and hauled the backpack onto his shoulders, he even clipped the safety strap across his chest. Alex shouldered his door a couple of times before it opened.
“Ready?” Tuck asked him.
“No,” Alex said.
“Good.” Tuck smiled and stepped over the invisible barrier into no man’s land.
Closely behind him, Alex tried to keep up. After only a few hundred yards, something dark brushed against Alex back and startled him. He quickly turned to see what hit him,
unfortunately, he stepped into a large glossy black puddle of mud and he lost his balance. As he steadied himself, his hand bumped the rifle trigger and it fired a shot upward into nothingness.
“Oh, Sh……” Tuck started to shout however, something grabbed him and snatched his feet out from under him; he landed face first on the ground with a thud. “Run! Run back to the truck and stay there till daylight.” Tuck shouted as he disappeared into the black blades of grass.
Alex froze, unable to make his feet turn back and run. He stood like a statue waiting for a similar fate. While some snake-like tentacles did slide past his feet, nothing grabbed him
and dragged him under. After what seemed like an hour of shallow breathing and looking down Alex felt confident, the threat had passed. He took a timid step forward, nothing happened except for more cold mud splashing up on his white four stripe shoes. Feeling a
little confidence, he kept moving forward. A little further in, he found Tuck’s backpack hooked on a branch. Judging by the claw marks on the tree and in the mud, Alex knew Tuck did not voluntarily remove the backpack.
Alex bent over, grabbed the pack, and attempted to hoist it up to his shoulders. “So heavy,” he gasped finally getting it strapped into place. “It that man made of pure muscle?” He said out loud panting just from lifting the bag. On wobbly legs, Alex pressed on through the grass until he reached a place where the trees took over again.
In the forest…
In this area, the trees were knotted so closely together no moon or starlight could make it in. The still present drag marks indicated Tuck and his captor had entered the woods near where Alex stood. Not wanting to risk taking the pack off and not being able to get it back
onto his shoulders he fished around in the pockets for something that might produce some light. He found another box of bullets and a few packs of matches, both useless in the current situation. Having a deep need to know what lay before him Alex grabbed his cell
phone out of his pocket and turned on the flashlight.
The pinhead-sized LED erupted. A dark formless mass shrieked as it retreated from the light. The mass moved away like a window shade revealing a bit of moonlight reaching the forest floor between the tree branches. Alex stepped into the woods with his minute cell
phone lamp leading the way. The shade closed back around the forest behind, cutting off access to the rest of the world in the event something worse happened. He gripped the cold rifle in his hand hoping it would give him some comfort, it didn’t.
After trekking through the forest for quite some time Alex noticed other than his footsteps in the mud and dirt the forest was silent. No birds, no insects, no breeze just still and
silent. He paused for a moment to appreciate the sound when he heard a snap and a muffled groan a little further ahead in the darkness. Quickly Alex extinguished his flashlight and ducked behind a tree. For several minutes, he listened intently for another sound. He
almost missed it but there was a small scratch in the same direction the other sounds came from.
Alex crouched trying to stay low and keep his body small. He crawled from his hiding place behind the tree doing his best to examine the ground for twigs and dry leaves or anything
else that would give him away. As stealthfully, as he could Alex approached the source of the sounds. He finally made it close enough to see a soft blue-green light illuminating a small cave opening.
In the soft light, he also saw Tuck tied barbeque style to a large tree trunk. Three dark almost blob-like creatures danced around the flame occasionally scratching at a rock or
throwing another stick in to be consumed. Alex slunk closer. When the creatures backs were turned he leaned forward enough into the light so Tuck could see him.
Tuck’s eyes showed both immense relief and deep disappointment. Alex raised the rifle and propped it up to the tree motioning with his hands he intended to shoot the creatures. Tuck quickly shook his head no and motioned for Alex to disappear into the darkness.
One of the creatures noticed Tuck thrashing around and turned to face him. In a dark breathy voice, it said. “Snack seems to be feeling better. Is Snack ready to die?”
Tuck coughed and weakly replied. “I’ll talk, tell you everything you want to know, but I need to see it first.”
“It!” the creature hissed. “It. No one calls master it. Not even a pathetic snack.” The thing scoffed. “Should kill you right now.”
“But you haven’t,” Tuck said, confidence returning to his voice. “You need me to show you the way to the treasure.”
“Master can find the way with a sacrifice,” the thing said.
“That won’t work and he knows it,” Tuck said. “Take me to him, and I’ll show you the way,”
The thing snarled again then nodded. It seemed a little scared of Tuck even though Tuck was the one tied to a tree. The thing made sounds unlike anything Alex had ever heard
before and the other two creatures ceased dancing around the fire and came over to the log. In one uniform motion, they picked up the log and started into the cave following the first creature as he carried a stick with the blue-green flame. As they moved along the
creatures made odd little clicking noises to each other. Alex waited as long as he thought he could, but he didn’t want to lose them in the tunnels. He pursued them the creatures
and Tuck from a safe distance making sure to press himself against the wall when they turned around to check for followers.
The tunnels in the mountain snaked around this way and that way the junctions were all so very confusing. Alex did his best to remember which way they were going, but he hoped
for an easier way. The temperature kept dropping and he began to shiver. The tunnel opened into a large space that echoed at the creatures clicked to each other. In front of them, a large set of stone doors at least three stories tall. Tuck gasped as the light flickered against the intricate icons carved into the doors.
The lead creature pointed and said. “Now snack open door.”
“I said take me to your master first, then I’ll show you.” Tuck rebuffed the creature.
“Door first,” the creature, said pointing again.
“No.” Tuck refused.
“Then you die.” The creature raised his wing like arms and held them open over Tuck.
BLAM! A shot rang out. Alex stood feet planted rifle on his shoulder. The bullet whizzed through the head of the creature, its body fell like a sheet to the floor. The other two creatures retreated into the darkness as the flaming stick fell to the ground. Alex rushed over to the log.
“Nice shot kid,” Tuck smiled. “Now quick, untie me.”
“Thanks,” Alex said fumbling with the giant knots trying to pry them open.
“There’s a knife in the pack. Use that.” Tuck said with a hint of frustration in his throat.
Alex gladly dumped the pack on the ground and opened the main flap. Inside he found a large silver knife with a serrated edge and about twenty sticks of dynamite with their fuses twisted together.
“Holy moly,” Alex gasped. “That is a lot of explosives.”
“Kid, Knife.” Tuck urged.
Alex quickly made his way back over and cut the rope restricting Tuck’s hands. With his hands, loose Tuck swiped the knife from Alex and cut the rest of the ropes. As the ropes fell to the ground, he started. “This friend of yours.”
“Yea?” Alex said.
“Ever met her before?”
“What do you mean her?” Alex said defensively.
“Answer the question, Romeo.”
“Only online,” Alex admitted as he looked away.
Tuck knelt down in front of the backpack and started twisting fuses. He pulled a large roll of ignition wire from the bag. “Didn’t it seem strange to you, at all that she wanted to meet you out here in the middle of Devil’s mountain?” He continued fussing with the lines.
“Yea, but she said she was famous and wanted to keep us a secret,” Alex said.
“Kid, you are an idiot.”
“I know.” He looked at the ground again.
“Ever heard of the secret treasure of Big Frog Mountain?” Tuck asked with a grin.
“Yea, kids used to tell stories at school.” Alex nodded.
The Treasure Secret
“The secret is the treasure ain’t on Big Frog Mountain. It’s right here inside Devil’s peak, and you are about to see it.” Tuck said starting to roll the wire out on the ground backing toward the giant doors. “Open the door and let me through,” Tuck commanded.
“I can’t move that door it weighs at least three tons.” Alex protested.
“See the spot that looks like a handprint?” Tuck asked.
Alex grabbed the still burning stick and waved it around looking for the marking on the door. “Yea.”
“Press your hand into it,” Tuck instructed.
Alex did, not expecting anything to happen. The marking clicked as it sunk into the wooden door. Little red lines started looped and dodged around the other marking on the door the
carvings resembling animals began to jump around and bray. Within seconds, the entire door glowed bright red and began creaking open. “Wow.” Alex gasped.
Tuck put his arm around Alex’s shoulder. “Inside, now.” He pushed Alex through the opening and followed close behind.
Once they passed through the door, it stopped singing and slammed shut. Alex looked around, his mouth hung open. Piles of gold lay everywhere. Goblets encrusted with all
the manner of precious stones lay mixed into the piles. The entire room glowed iridescently. Alex looked up to see a giant diamond-shaped lens magnifying the moonlight and reflecting
it down to the gold. He couldn’t speak he just kept looking around, the longer he looked the more gold he saw. Bits of gold from every era of known humanity lay in piles separated by kind and purity. After many long minutes, Tuck spoke.
“Like it?” He laughed. “Now that you’ve seen the family fortune. It’s time to fire the workforce.”
“Wait, what?” Alex asked puzzled. “Family?”
“Didn’t your mom ever tell you about her kooky old uncle that lives alone in the woods?”
Alex frowned. “Yea.”
“Did she tell you why?”
“She said he was crazy, drove everyone mad over some land or something,” Alex admitted he didn’t really know the whole story.
“Sounds about right. Well, that uncle is me, and this is the land I’ve been protecting.
Alex struggled to wipe the confusion off his face.
“Now we got to get rid of those no good shades out there. They’ve been scaring people off for decades, and I was fine with that they left me alone, even did my job for me.”
“What?” Alex shook his head trying to make sense of it.
“Only one of the family can open the door.”
“Got it,” Alex said.
“When you showed up on my door I knew they’d figured out who you were and how to get you here.”
“Why didn’t you just say that at the cabin?” Alex asked.
“Would you have believed me if I’d said: Hey there long lost nephew, you’ve been tricked by a ghost with thumbs into coming into the woods so it can kill you and rob your family.”
“Probably not,” Alex said.
“And I wasn’t completely sure it was you until you opened the door. It’s been a while since Margie sent me any pictures.”
The mad creatures
A loud scratching sound interrupted the Tuck. Alex covered his ears to shield his brain from the noise. The creatures also pounded on the door and shrieked.
“Well they are back with their master and they are mad.” Tuck smiled. “Do you want to do the honors?” He extended a hand with the detonation button in it.
“Heck yea,” Alex said grabbed the device and pressing the button.
After a second, the room shook with the loud rumble outside knocking the dust off the walls. The door stayed standing. When the ringing subsided from his ears Alex dropped the switch and said, “That felt good.”
Tuck smiled, “If you want to stick around we can work together to build a new system to protect the treasure.”
Alex just nodded.
Exciting animal stories for kids of all ages: This collection of short stories aims to give the reader a first-person perspective into some of Coyote’s most harrowing and heartwarming adventures
By Amos Jones ©2018