Uncle Milo, like Grampa Roy, was a Maine Guide. He and Aunt Myrtle had a two-story log cabin on Duck Lake. Come spring and summer, Larry and I would get to visit them, separately, for a few days every month.

The first time I went without my brother was a little scary, but it made me feel like big stuff. I was going to have to fend for myself with no big brother to bail me out of any jams.

I arrived for the first solo visit one late afternoon just before dusk. Uncle Milo was cutting chunks of fish to use for setting out night lines for eel. The sight of an eel sends shivers up my spine but that didn't keep me off the dock while he threw the baited lines into the lake. I was big stuff now, right?

That night, though, I was lucky. The pickerel were feeding and every time one of Uncle Milo's baited hooks hit the water it would be snapped up by a pickerel. The first coupla pickerel didn't bother Uncle Milo, but after a dozen, he was getting irritated. He was trying to get his night lines set for eel.

Finally, the pickerel stopped grabbing the bait, and Uncle Milo was able to get the lines set, without, to my great relief, getting an eel. By then it was dark and time for bed. Snugged up under the eaves in my quilt, listening to the lap-lap-lap of the water on the shore, I went to sleep anticipating daybreak and the challenge of hauling in the eels.

The sun rises real early at this time of the year and there's not much to match daybreak on a warm summer's morning across a Maine lake. Walking down to the dock, I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when I spotted a canoe coming across the lake.

"That's Johnny In'jun," said Uncle Milo, "coming for a visit."

Johnny In'jun! Larry had told me about Johnny In'jun. He was a for-real Indian and he lived in a tiny cabin across the lake. His cabin was so small, so the story went, that he could sit in the middle and reach anything in the cabin.

I was about to meet Johnny In'jun.

"How do." said Johnny In'jun (I never heard him called just Johnny) to Uncle Milo. Uncle Milo said "'Morning" as he reached and gave Johnny In'jun a hand out of the canoe onto the dock.

"Who've we got here?" asked Johnny In'jun, glancing at me.

"Oh, this is my niece, Marion, visiting for a spell."

"Hmmn," said Johnny In'jun, rubbing his chin, "I'll give ya a nickel for her."

Before I had time for any reaction to set in, Uncle Milo said, "Well, I dunno," as he started rubbing his chin," I don't allow as I could let her go for less'n a quarter."

I recognized this chin rubbing routine. Grampa Roy and others always used it when they were "horse trading." But I'd never known anyone to dicker on trading a person…and I was the person in question.

Now the reactions were coming fast as the two of them stood there dickering back and forth, getting closer and closer to a meeting price.

I was sure they were perfectly serious. On one hand, I couldn't understand why Uncle Milo would consider trading me off, afraid he would, and on the other hand, I thought it'd be kinda neat to see Johnny In'jun's cabin…how he lived and all. "Wouldn't that make some story to tell," I thought.

(They never did reach a meeting price that morning, or any other of several such mornings, and gradually, I began to grasp the game of it.)

They then turned their hand to pulling in the eel lines. The first eel that was flopped onto the dock set me in motion. This was one challenge I wasn't up to. The very sight of the eel sent me running straight to the safety of the cabin.

We had eel, fried in rich homemade butter, for breakfast. However, Aunt Myrtle had to cut the eel pieces in squares for me because I couldn't look at the round slices without picturing the whole eel.

Oh, well, I had faced the challenge of being "traded" without a flinch. One challenge won per visit was a good start.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.