A day in the life…we got frogs!

April 30, 2011 § 6 Comments

It’s Saturday afternoon and too hot for napping on the couch, so I sit on the cool concrete back stoop.

The only good thing to be on a day this hot is a kid with a hose.

On the other side of the wire fence that separates our yards, my twelve-year-old neighbor, Dee, is busy being that perfect thing.

The hose snakes through the grass as he drags it.  Dodging the blast, Michael and Justin run and whoop.  The boys wear only drenched shorts.  Their skin is slick with water, their blond hair soaked dark.  Our dachshund, Broder, barks as he runs back and forth along the fence, chasing the action.

Suddenly, Dee stops and lifts the lid on a large wooden box.  He sprays water into it.  As he watches the box fill the other two join him.  Hands on skinny hips, shoulder blades poking out like coat hangers, all three lean forward and gaze into the box.

“What’s in the box?” I ask.

“We got frogs.”  Dee closes the lid with his bare toes, then swivels fast and pulls the trigger.  A jet of water parts Michael’s hair right down the middle.

Frogs, I think.  That’s not so bad, frogs in a box of water.  I let it go for a while.  Then I remember how dry it has been.

“Dee?  Can you show me one of those frogs?”

Dee would rather squirt Justin’s butt, but his daddy’s taught him to be polite.  He drops the hose with a sigh and scoops something out of the box.  “See?”  In his hand is a toad, all tired out from keeping its robust body afloat with those small, turned-in legs.

I ask Dee if knows that toads are dry-land dwellers and that toads can live to be thirty if no one drowns them in a box.  And then I tell him that I like toads.  “I sure wish I had a bunch of toads in my yard.”

Dee drops to a squat and opens the box.

Reaching across the fence, he gives all the toads to me.  Half a dozen at a time, they pour from his hands into mine.

Some spill over and plop on the ground.  Tuckered out, they land on their sides, or their heads, or their backs.

Some have to be nudged over with a toe.  Right side up, they sit and blink.  They’re not even particularly scared of Broder, who is making his high, worry bark, and jabbing at them with his nose.

On about the fifth poke they seem to notice him.  All right, all right, and, like partially-wound mechanical toys, they thump off toward the butterfly bushes.

On the other side of the fence Justin streaks between me and the business end of the hose.  A flash of water hits my legs.  It sure feels good.

In the nearby bushes, toads are turning into dusty stones.

Note: This essay was written summers ago and one dog back.  I was glad to have it in my pocket because last week, doing a run of school visits, I didn’t have the time or gumption to write.  Another hot summer is coming, and provided no one’s drowned them in a box, some of those toads have probably just burrowed up out of the warming earth. 

I’ll keep my eye open for them.

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§ 6 Responses to A day in the life…we got frogs!

  • Growing up in Texas, we chased ‘horntoads’ around our yard. Dad cautioned us against ‘bottling’ them up – they ate mosquitoes and ants and thus were our friends.

    I always thought it funny that Texas Christian University (TCU), an arch-rival with Baylor – my parent’s alma mater – had chosen the ‘horn frog’ as its mascot. Everyone knew there was no such animal! So we called TCU the ‘horny toads’ and knew our Baylor Bears would eat them up.

    In later years I discovered that these little dry-land creatures have been around for millinia and are actually horned lizards. Who knew?

    Thanks for the memory boost, A.



    • Toads are our friends, and in their ugliness most people like them. I have a harder time convincing kids that spiders and snakes are also friends.

      Evidently, warts are cuter than leglessness (or legfullness).


  • craig reeder says:

    i once ordered an iguana by mail order. me and my 2 younger brothers played with him/her/it in the yard, but after a day or two, he/she/it disappeared. a few days later one of our neighbors called. they were the most affluent folks on the block, and they had a pool with a screen canopy. anyway, they said they saw my iguana on top of the canopy. when i came over to get him, he had died of dehydration perched on top of the screen looking straight down at all that perfectly blue water. it made me sad. about as sad as a 12-year old boy could get about a mail-order iguana, i guess.


    • Which I’m betting was pretty darned sad, unless your heart has grown softer since then.

      For me the dead iguana was a surprise. I thought this was going to be a “Pet Iguana Goes Wild and Eats Small Dogs” story. You’re not the only boy who ever lost a mail-order iguana.


  • Tgumster says:

    Before the storms came on Wednesday, beagle Cooper James and I came across two toads–one older and larger, the other smaller but not a youth–I wondered, probably aloud, how either of these “frogs” could survive in the heat with no nearby water source.

    Cooper didn’t answer, probably because he knows the difference between frogs and toads, because it was hot and he had other business to do, because there was no imminent danger.

    Now, in Adrian’s “remembrance of things past,” all is revealed concerning frogs and toads. I am grateful as I wasn’t sure I would ever remember long enough to find out. Turns out, all I had to do was wait.


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