As miffed as I am at Mother Nature over the Toronto Islands situation, I have to give her credit for warming the lakes of the Laurentides.
Unlike Ontario cottage country, which is mostly flat and relatively useless in winter, this region north of Montreal encompasses the verdant Laurentian Mountains, which are home to major ski resorts such as Mont Tremblant and Mont Saint-Sauveur. In summer it has it all too: Dock-dozing, paddle-boarding, fly-fishing, keg-standing, water-skiing, Watermelon Scramble...
Watermelon what now? The rules of this barely-controlled chaos are detailed in The Family Book of Sports and Games, which was unearthed one summer afternoon at my cousins' lakeside chalet near Tremblant. Guides like this 1954 gem have been replaced by web searches that can dial up family diversions by the dozen, but plug "Watermelon Scramble" into any of them and you won't get this back: "The group should be divided into two equal teams. Each team marks a spot on the water's edge for its goal. One player swims out with a greased watermelon and leaves it in the water. Both teams are lined up at the shore. At a signal, everyone jumps in the water and races toward the melon. The object is to bring the melon back to goal."
Suffice to say that Watermelon Scramble is loads of riotous fun. If The Family Book of Sports and Games was still in print, however, I would email author Helen Joseph (or the executor of her estate) and suggest that she include these points in the next edition:
1. Don't try to catch the watermelon, unless you want a watermelon-shaped bruise on your chest.
2. Don't spike the melon on the shore after scoring, unless you want the game to end with a splat.
3. Give shorter players a wide berth, unless you want a disconcerting welt on your...you get the idea.
These days, instructions for a game like this would be rife with disclaimers about beach safety, water contamination and genetically modified melons. Back in '54, however, these issues were the least of parents' concerns, what with "Johnny, Jump the Fence" on the menu. As described by TFBOSAG:
"A penknife should be stuck a little way into the ground on a slant with the head leaning toward the 'fence,' which is formed when the player puts his left hand on the ground, with his little finger lying on the ground, and his palm facing the knife. With his right hand, he slaps the knife upward toward the fence. The object is to make the knife jump over the fence and stick in the ground on the other side..."
I'm pretty sure Children's Aid would be called within seconds if someone saw my kids playing "Johnny, Jump the Fence."
To be fair, the book does include a few disclaimers. But they are mostly hilarious. For the various knife games, it cautions players to "remember that any game with knives can be dangerous unless the players are careful at all times." (The same goes for chainsaw and grenade games, right?) It adds that by playing slowly, the "chances of being hurt are fewer." (Read: Stab wounds are inevitable but less frequent.)
Then there's the addendum to the self-explanatory "Pie Eating Contest," which reminds contestants that "the pies should be edible."
Last but not least, the "Javelin Throw" is described as "a measure of throwing ability to keep the men busy while the women prepare the food."
Come to think of it, maybe the cottage games of 1954 weren't so bad after all…
WHERE TO STAY
You won’t have to resort to "Johnny, Jump the Fence” at Lac Tremblant’s gorgeous beach club, which is a short walk from the Residence Inn Mont Tremblant Manoir Labelle in the lively resort village. The beach is an ideal spot for Watermelon Scramble, but the Javelin Throw isn’t such a good idea...