Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Fever: The Tale of the Mutant Frog

This past weekend was the first warm bout of weather we've had after a seemingly endless winter in upstate New York. My daughters, along with a small cadre of other children, armed with buckets and nets spent both days capturing and releasing bullfrogs, leopard frogs, assorted tadpoles, painted turtles and blandings turtles. At one point, after hearing frantic shrieking, I made a mad dash to the pond to release a snapping turtle that had been inadvertently netted.

Unlike most of the nearby moms, I love watching the kids knee-deep in muck. No doubt my love of nature was inherited from my father and nurtured by growing up in a rural area and watching Hodge Podge Lodge on PBS until I was bleary-eyed.

Known to my immediate neighbors as "The Environmentalist", I am the mom who will pick up a snake, wade in the creek to catch crayfish, compare and contrast the characteristics of toads and frogs, and will explain to the children that the giant bird they spotted by the edge of the creek was a great blue heron, not a crane.

Needless to say, when I heard cries of "mutant frog" coming from the creek I was concerned. If there were frogs in the creek displaying genetic mutations I wanted to know about it for obvious reasons. Bordering on hysteria, the children ran up to me speaking over one another about the frog they'd seen with two heads. Urging me to hurry, they grabbed my hand eager to show me the spot where the beast had last been seen.

On our way a mom called out to ask me if the kids were showing me the mutated frog. She shuddered as she described a frog with a head that appeared to have grown another head above it. With growing horror I began to wonder what toxins the kids had been exposed to during their explorations of the creek and adjacent pond. I began to mentally review the list of authorities who would need to be contacted in order to determine how contaminated our previously pristine creek water had become.

We quickly reached the spot and the children pointed at a large rock inhabited by what appeared to be a two-headed toad, not frog. Jumping across the creek boulders, I knelt to examine the creature. It appeared that rather than having two heads, it was as if two toads had been melded together. As I picked it up the children gave shouts of horrified disgust. I turned the toad over and began gently moving its legs. Sure enough, I found small feet tightly gripping underneath the leg joints of the bottom toad. I smiled and carefully placed the breeding pair back onto their boulder. After assuring the kids that the toads were not mutated but were instead making baby toads, I began to walk home.

On the way back I passed by the mom I'd seen a few minutes earlier. She called out to ask if I'd seen the mutated monstrosity. "Yep", I answered. " My guess is that it was caused by spring fever. It'll be just fine if it gets a bottle of wine, a bit of privacy, and a heart-shaped bed in the Poconos."



Pursey Tuttweiler said...

Hah! That's hilarious, Ethel.
Thanks for sharing that.

TomCat said...

Hi Ethel. Congrats!! Now that you have proven your ability to interfere with copulation, there is a job waiting for you at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. promoting abstinence only. ;-)

I'm happy to see you're up and around. :-)

tuco said...

This sounds much like conversations that went on around the dinner table that friends offered my parents money to attend.

pissed off patricia said...


I was wondering if it might just be a love deal as you were telling the story. Glad it worked out that way for two reasons. One the toads were doing what they should and two, the kids weren't playing in some kind of god awful water.

Jamie said...

Very very funny. The description of the children reminded me of the great frog hunt from Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

Bart said...

I am reminded of my Hedberg:

"In England, Smokey the Bear is not the forest fire prevention representative. They have Smackie the Frog. It's just like a bear, but it's a frog. I think that's a better system, I think we should adopt it, because bears can be mean, but frogs are always cool. Never has there been a frog hoppin' towards me and I thought, 'Man, I better play dead! Here comes that frog!'"

Women on the Verge said...


Thank you and welcome!


If only birth control were retro active...


It's certainly never boring around here!!


I'm glad it wasn't a case of radiactive water myself... it's hard enough getting them to sleep without them being their own night-lights.


I am truly flattered that anything of mine might remind you of Steinbeck... he's always been one of my favorites.


I've never met a frog I didn't like either!


Mando Mama said...

Oh Ethel, I'm just sending you a big belly laugh and a hug and a very round glass of red wine (do not share with the frogs). You simply tell motherstories like nobody's business and I love it.

I'm glad someone else is unafraid to play in the dirt and look in the pond and get excited over nature with her offspring and those of others. Parks can be such odd gathering places. My kids and I were visibly horrified last spring when a couple of truly stupid humans let their damn dog off the leash after a DEER, like the whole thing was so CUTE and RUSTIC. We gave them the "Where's your sign??" look long and hard.

So glad you are back in the saddle!!

Rock dweller said...

I LOVE YOUR BLOg... Love the background too

two crows said...

hey, E--
what a great story.

and, am SOOO glad it had a happy ending.
like you, I was truly worried about the muck the kids were playing around in.
glad it was just muck--not murcury-fill or whatever.

Mando Mama said...

Oh! I forgot!


I LOOOOVED that show. And I forgot all about it 'til you mentioned it!OMG, I bet there are YouTubes out there...

jaybird said...

What a coincidence!!! I think TUCO must have spent time at our dinner table while our four girls were growing up. Many's the time our girls would regale us with their insights & comments on all manner of subjects whether animal, vegetable or mineral.Mostly they were designed to turn my hair white & my face red. Their sideways glances at Dad for a reaction was a sure tip-off to their mischevious behavior. The laughter was contagious and did indeed elicit offers from some of their school chums willing to pay us for time at our dinner table.

Mark said...

Hi Ethel, that is a cracker i am going to be chuckling to my self all day. What will your neighbours say when you lure some baltimore orioles into your garden!!!!
Cheers Mark

SSC said...

Ethel, I enjoyed the read. It reminded me of a similar incident I experienced with friends at my uncle's pond. If only more kids today got their first introduction to basic biology in this way, maybe they would be "scared straight". Pretty sad that the natural curiosity of the kids isn't recognized and fostered by more adults in their lives.

I'm still wondering how red your neighbor's face turned when she realized how silly her reaction had been???

Women on the Verge said...

mando mama

Thanks for the wine :-) and for letting me know I'm not the only Hodge Podge Lodge groupie left out there!!
I appreciate your kind words, and yes, parks are strange meeting grounds. I find myself telling the most of the kids "Wild things belong in the wild". I'm actually thinking of recording it and playing it over a p.a. system on warm days. Sounds like some of the folks around here may be relatives of the deerstalking couple you ran across.


How lucky your kids were to have parents that don't make their children endure silent dinners!!!

rock dweller

Thank you and welcome!!

two crows

I was beginning to become worried that I might have to face the possibility of my kids growing extra appendages...


I aim to please... hmmmm ... maybe that's the key to luring in those orioles??!!!


I agree... if more kids explored nature maybe they'd be more invested in being good stewards when they're older. As for my neighbor, sadly I don't think she fully understood what I meant *sigh*... now you understand why I blog... to preserve my sanity.


MichaelBains said...


Love it!

Bettin' teh toads weren't so happy, but, well, didn't sound like they let it bother 'em though, did they.

Not sure if there's a lesson there...


Women on the Verge said...

The lesson was "See what you can accomplish when you really focus??!!"