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Monday, January 16, 2012

Lifecycles: Tadpoles

     “Over there, Butchy.” I pointed to a spot in the pond where I saw some movement. Butchy whispered back that he had not seen it but could see the waves by the shore.
     “What we really need to do is learn how to make their sound. Then we could call them.” Hmm, he had a good idea there so we settled in on the ground near the pond to just listen to the frogs as they broke through the surface one by one. The “pond” was really only there in the summer because it was more of a deep depression in the dirt field we all played in than an actual pond. By July, though, the summer rains had transformed the barren dip into a great place to watch the frogs. We listened for quite some time, silently pointing out places where we had spotted a frog amongst the weeds. When it was time to head home, we walked away practicing the frog vocalizations. What a variety of sounds we both made in these early attempts!
     The following day Butchy and I carried an empty Mayonnaise jar with us to the pond. We had poked holes in the lid with a nail and had put some green grass blades inside so the frog we planned to bring home would feel more comfortable and would have something to eat. At eight or nine years of age, neither of us had learned what frogs eat or what makes them comfortable, of course, but it seemed like this would be about right. All the way to the pond we practiced our frog call. Butchy sounded a lot more like the frogs I had heard than I did. (Perhaps that was an early indicator just how hard it would be for me to learn to speak a foreign language!) Quietly, we approached the pond and Butchy began making his new sound. Nothing happened. My attempt netted the same result, nada. Okay, so we just needed to wait for one of them to pop up.
     Suddenly the water began to ripple right under the edge nearest us. At nearly the same time, Butchy swept his hand in and out it came, holding the frog he had just captured. We were not sure if the frog had heard Butchy’s call or just happened to pop up at his feet but it was good enough for us. Now we could take the frog home and practice our frog calls on him. We could listen to him and then try ourselves to replicate the sound. Not sure why I thought the frog would be such a willing teacher but home we went with our new acquisition, who was trying to hide himself in the grass of the jar.
     My mother let us use her big metal wash tub as a home for the frog so we dumped him out of the jar and into his new digs as soon as the tub had been filled. Guess the water was a bit too cold for him because he was not in there more than a brief second before jumping out. I re-captured him and gently stroked his back as I held him snuggly in my hand. Tenderly I encouraged him that we were his friends and would take care of him—as well as all those other promises that kids make to the captured wildlife, having not a clue that we could never in a million years keep those promises, of course!
     Once the water had had a chance to warm up a bit in the sun, we re-introduced Froggie to his new home and he seemed to like it. He dove and swam all around the tub. He did not jump out so we both began to practice our frog language on him. He stopped swimming sometimes and appeared to be listening but never answered us. Well, maybe tomorrow Froggie will talk to us and not just listen, we told each other as the time came for Butchy to go home for supper.
     Early the next morning I shot out of the house before breakfast was even on the table and began calling Froggie. When I reached the tub I discovered that Froggie had flown the coop, so to speak. He was nowhere in sight and the water was clear enough to see that he was not swimming underwater either. I gingerly lifted the leaves we had placed for Froggie to sit on when he was tired of swimming but he was not under any of them. I walked carefully all over the lawn with my face as close to the grass as I could get and called Froggie in my primitive frog vocalization. After breakfast, as always, Butchy appeared and I gave him the bad news. Froggie was gone.

****Lifecycles: Tadpoles, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

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