At lakes and ponds across the state, families will gather this weekend to do the things they always do on the Fourth of July.
They’ll swim in the cool, clear water. They’ll eat burgers and hot dogs, s’mores and watermelon. They might sit around a campfire, watching the amateur fireworks shows.
Many will pile into a boat, head across the lake, clamber up the biggest rock they can find and (eventually) work up the courage to leap off it.
There are a lot of those rocks in these parts, and generations of youngsters — and more than a few adults — have come to consider their first leap a rite of passage.
“Some day,” we tell those eager kids, “you’ll be old enough to jump.”
And generation after generation, that’s exactly what they do. Then, converted, they urge others to follow suit and join them in their own (not-so) exclusive club.
At our family camp on Beech Hill Pond, that rock is called Junk of Pork. Or Chunk of Pork. Or Chunkapork. (It all depends on who you ask.)
It’s a modest rock, as these leaping platforms go — only 10 feet or so above the water.
From the top, one small girl once told me, it looks like 30. She was right.
Other lakes have bigger, badder, scarier rocks. But I would bet the pre-jump ritual is similar. Count to three — or five or 10, if you’re a scaredy-cat. Hold your breath. Be sure to keep your feet close together. Then leap. Hang in the air. And eventually splash down.
“You don’t think you’ll ever hit the water,” another young jumper once told me. “But believe me: You will.”
I used to think these rocks were everywhere, that jumping off a big rock into a cool lake was a universal pastime. Recently, I’ve learned I was wrong: My co-workers “from away” had never heard of such a thing. Rope swings? Sure. But rocks? Not so much.
So as you head to camp this weekend, I’ve got a favor to ask. Go to your rock. Take some photos of people jumping off. Then, when you return, send me an email and tell me all about it.
What’s your rock called? Where is it located? How tall is it? And how tall does it seem when you’re perched on the edge?
Do you remember your first leap? Your last? What makes your rock special?
Share a photo or two. Tell me a tale.
Then, if all goes according to plan, I’ll share some of those photos and stories with readers next week.
Happy Fourth of July — and happy jumping!
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke.