For my mother's 92nd birthday, our handyman gave her a tiny toad or frog. I don't know the difference and, at the moment, I don't care. Mom was absolutely thrilled. One free and rather nondescript amphibian completely shaded the new TV my brother, sisters, and I pitched in to buy her for her bedroom. At her request, I might add, not that I'm salty about that.
Like any tech savvy lady, she headed her walker straight for the computer to research the little guy's needs.
Terrarium. Check. Fine spray mister. Check. Small clay pot to make a little hidey hole. Mom decided her spare pots were too big. I managed to find a tiny one under my kitchen sink. Mom promptly took a hammer to it.
I guess I'm not getting it back.
Silly me, I'd envisioned her laying the pot on its side. At that Mom showed me some pictures she'd found on the internet. These showed the pot turned upside down with a rounded entrance cut into the side. I admit they were cute like little Hobbit houses. We turned to look at her handiwork. Her hammer blow had busted out a jagged triangular piece of clay. Hairline cracks suggested it wouldn't be prudent to hit it again.
She was disappointed. But after studying it for a moment, I told her it made the habitat look like she had a badass toad living there.
The water dish was replaced six times before she settled on a lid possessing the perfect depth. Not too deep but just enough for him to sit in easily. The website further claimed the frog needed dirt from the area where it was found.
Fresh, loamy soil from the creek bank will have to do. The next requirement was living moss. Who wrote this stuff? And how do they know? Did amphibian pollsters go pond to pond?
It took me a bit but I found green moss growing under her outside water faucet.
Job well done...I'm ready to stamp the project finished.
Then she tells me, "the article said he'll only eat insects that are still alive. It has this graph and a toad his size needs about 3 bugs a day. Nothing with a hard shell so, I think, that lets out ladybugs and such. Oh, it also says that the back legs of crickets have to be removed. Something about them causing a blockage in his digestive system."
I suggest ordering live insects off the internet or buying some at a local pet store. She laughs like I've made the funniest joke.
"Why pay for bugs when we've 34 acres filled with them? It shouldn't be hard. You could try checking piles of animal poop to find flies."
I stare at her in disbelief but she seems completely serious. I also know if I don't do it, she'll be out there scrambling around, with her walker no less, That leaves me to hunt out perfect dietal tidbits with which to tempt, what sounds to me, a very picky amphibian.
Outside, armed with long tweezers and a plastic baggie, I begin my search. Unfortunately, the trillions of bugs that live here must have been listening at the window. It seems they've all dispersed and gone into hiding. Not a single bee is droning. The ants have taken it a step further by sticking Go away, nobody's home signs on their hills. Reluctantly, I check the piles of doo-doo my dogs have left conveniently around but not one fly is decorating them.
It seemed to take forever until I finally capture the only three bugs either too inattentive or lackadaisical to heed the alert. One fly type thing, another bug I don't recognize, and a grasshopper.
Believe me when I say it's hard to catch flying/jumping insects with tweezers. However, I refuse to touch them with bare hands. I'm sweating by the time I hand the baggie over into Mom's waiting hands.
I suspect my grin is more than a little hysterical as I tell her, "Here. I don't know if grasshopper legs have to be removed like a cricket's. Your call."
On that note, I head home. It's only a few steps as my place is right next door. The heat has made me slow as I'm about halfway there when it hits me. I'm going to have to go through this every stupid day until fall.
As much as I'm hating this internet site Mom has been reading with all the passion of a proselyte, it has given one piece of advice with which I heartily agree.
Amphibians should be released back into the wild while the weather is still warm. This will give them some time to dig a hole for hibernation.
Here in southern Missouri, this means I'll be wearing a bug hunter cap along with all my other hats until the end of September or early October. Locally, the first really cold day hits Halloween. As a child, I was convinced this was Mother Nature's way of messing with trick-or-treaters.
By that time, I figure I'll be maniacally singing Ugly Bug Ball while fancy dancing with the fleas. It's either that or I'll turn into one of them like Kafka's Gregor in Metamorphosis. Hmm, between those two options I think I'll stick to my party pants.
The phone's ringing as I shut the door behind me.
"Robin," Mom exclaims excitedly, "I've been reading some more and the males have a bluish tint to their necks while a female's neck is the same color as the rest of its body."
She pauses with all the drama of an expecting mother's baby reveal. Pink confetti seems to spill through the airwaves along with her voice, "You have a little sister! Oh, and next time? You better remove any legs. They're too hard for me to pull off."
Touche, Mom, I hang up. She's managed to insult me and turn me into a butcher for her pet - all in the same breath.
It's all summer magic at the farm.
THE WILD ROSE PRESS
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