Sunday, May 17, 2015

Frog Giggling

    Warm spring nights in the South wake us from our winter slumber and give us back our desire to be outside with Mother Nature.  My husband is much more of an outdoorsman than I, as my adventures are fairly limited to camping, boating and fishing.  That was not always the case, however.  I was invited, once, to participate in a frog gigging trip.  The thought of spearing a frog did not appeal to me, but, I was young and imagined that the outing might be fun.  I must remind you that I was only invited once, for very good reasons.

    My future husband, his nephew and I headed off into the flooded fields and ponds that teemed with spring frogs, snakes and alligators, none of which I actually wanted to be near. When we had motored out to the middle of a large body of water, the two men stepped outside of the boat and began walking around the dark, shallow lake with gigs in hand.  This was most unexpected and I was left in the boat with only a lantern and a prayer.  Uncertain what lurked in these waters, I feared at any moment I would see both of these men eaten by a large alligator. I watched as they flung snakes out of their way with the tips of their gigs and I wondered how crazy one must be to do this.  And then it hit me, I was alone in the boat and never asked the very important question, "Are snakes drawn to light?"  I doused the lantern and sat there enveloped in darkness.  I could hear the many unfamiliar sounds of the night and feared that the snakes might crawl in the boat with me and immediately turned the lantern back on. Still afraid I might be a beacon calling out to all the night critters, the light went out again.  For the next few hours I can only guess that it appeared as if someone was sending Morse code signals for help as a light flashed on and off from the middle of the darkness as I hid from view and repeatedly checked for incoming snakes.

    Eventually, the men returned with their catch and announced that it was time for me to go frog giggling.  This new sport, not quite the same as frog gigging, involved snatching a frog out of the darkness with your bare hands.  They motored us close to the bank and told me to watch for glowing eyes. Once I spied a pair, I was instructed to reach out and quickly grab them.  I blindly followed this instruction and safely nabbed an unsuspecting toad.  An afterthought occurred to me that I should have asked another important question, "Do snakes have glowing eyes?"

   With a boat full of frogs, it was soon time to leave.  Being the only one wide awake from an adrenaline rush, I drove us home as the two hunters slept. Still uncertain how this can happen, I, apparently, never noticed when the boat slipped from the trailer and slid onto the highway leaving the boat, motor and frogs miles from home.  As we cut through the night, traveling down back roads, I sang softly with the radio unaware of what was missing.  As I drove the vehicle over the railroad tracks in town, I looked back to make sure the boat was okay.  You can only imagine my surprise to discover that the boat was gone.  In a panic, I woke the men and asked the brilliant question, "Where's the boat?!?"  I whipped the truck around, crossing back over the tracks in a frenzied rush, sending the front of the vehicle down hard into the pavement, knocking the bumper and winch off the truck, bringing us to a sudden stop.  Much like a wounded animal, the vehicle moved slowly off the road, dragging the broken parts with it, shooting sparks into the night.  We were now boatless and broken.  I retired myself to the back seat and the men took over, placing the front of the truck into the back of the truck and returning us to the highway to find the boat.

    About twenty miles out of town, we pulled up to a very happy motorist who was loading an abandoned boat in the back of his truck.  The frogs croaked from the sack that still sat on the side of the highway.  We retrieved out boat and our frogs, but the motor was long gone.

    Warm spring nights still remind me of that time in the middle of the pond where I sat with my light and my faith listening to the symphony of frog songs, crickets, and night noises.  I think everyone should try this at least once, because sometimes once is all you get.   But most importantly, sometimes once is all you need.

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