Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frog Gardening

Frog Gardening
(previously posted at Gardener's Corner)
Copyright - Steve Emery - all rights reserved.

When we were in early grade school, my brother and sisters and I used to spend every spring afternoon after school at the "frogstream." This was in reality a drainage ditch by the side of the road, but since it was fed by a spring, it ran continuously. One day we had found a frog in it, and were so excited. We dammed the ditch to make a pool for the frog.

Lo, there were two frogs in the pool the next day. We made more pools further "downstream." We grew quite adept at cutting the bank clay into living strips, with grass and violets growing on the tops, and rearranging them in tiers of dams and pools. Eventually we had quite a troop of frogs, all of which had names. There was Biggy1 and Biggy2. There was the greenheaded one named (of course) Greeny. Later we would find a large bullfrog and, due to it's gold tympanum, name it Goldie. (The pool in which we found "her" was called "Goldie's Place.")

This play went on for weeks, and finally months. Nearly every day we went down to the "frogstream" to take census, repair the dams on our water terraces, catch all the frogs and put them in one pool, name the new arrivals, and reroute the runoff. Wildflowers took their turns on the shores. Violets, Blue-eyed Grass, Henbit, Cresses, Celandine, Wild Strawberries (oh, far too few), Daisies, Queen Anne's Lace. Soon it would be summer vacation and we could play there all day.

Then one tragic day we came home from school and found the "frogstream" gone. The water trickled over newly exposed bedrock. It seems the county had noticed the ditch which never drained, and they had come and scooped up the entire thing and hauled it away in a dump truck. We thought of the frogs and wept. We raged about this for days. We never returned to the spot after that, avoiding it.

But it remains in my memory as a deliciously cooperative type of farming practiced by four small children ranging in age from myself, about nine, to my youngest sister, about two. In its heyday the "frogstream" was home to nearly a dozen frogs, of several species. Once we even found a Leopard Frog, a prince of his kind. (He deigned to stay with us only one day. The other hoteliers were far too common. Or perhaps it was our overwhelming childish love - we ALL had to catch and hold him at least once...)

When I think of my early childhood, the "frogstream" runs through it.

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