Family Friends and Fields
July 21, 2008
Forget the recent Olympic trials, the annual race has more drama. Appropriately dubbed the Sun Run, it draws thousands of participants. They swim, run, fly, walk, or even crawl if they have to, in this life and death race. For all the drama, you’d think it’d pull bigger audiences. Only a handful witness these valiant racers, most doomed before the race even starts.
Neighborhood children were the most faithful observers. My own had season tickets and watched the carnage from start to finish. They cheered on their favorites and hurled insults at those they disliked. The same blood lust which overfilled coliseums still courses through human hearts even in so-called civilized times.
The seasonal creek crossing our property makes a wide turn, creating a small pond. A few drops in elevation leave little falls and riffles. Root wads and fallen branches catch woody debris and rocks build natural barriers slowing the water into small pools.
No amount of slowing prevents the inevitable. From the moment the rains stop, our creek’s days are numbered. Each sunny day takes a toll. Cooler temperatures and cloud cover grant slight reprieves in evaporation losses, but the steady decline is remarkably evident as the pond level drops.
What was shoulder deep only weeks ago is now reduced to wading size. Before long, the entire length of the creek will be a cracked mud scrawl with a few stagnant puddles. When younger the kids mourned the loss of their favorite playground. They’d begin missing the many life forms which inhabit the creek and watch them race for their lives against the scorching sun.
We’ve never found fish in the creek, but it teems with water bugs, mosquito larva, and skippers. Dragonflies grace us with their presence for a time, but leave the race whenever they take flight. Salamanders and the occasional turtle can be found, but they too bail out by way of mysterious cracks traveling to underground springs.
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Snakes slither in, catch a meal, and silently slink away. Birds drop in for a bite of whatever is currently marooned. Coons and possums make night visits to check out the trapped menu. Water levels diminish and the race rages on.
My kids always cheered the underwogs. The pollywogs racing to become frogs received all their sympathy. When the pond shrank, armed with cottage cheese containers, they’d check the pollywog inventory and save future generations.
Pollywoglets trapped in receding holes were airlifted to deeper spots to buy extra time to finish their changes. Casualties feed something else on the roster.
I remember one day the kids came in muddied from watching the race. I asked how the pollywogs were faring. My correction was quick and complete.
“They’re not pollywogs anymore. They’re frogwogs now,” Dory explained. They’d sprouted legs, making excellent progress. The relocation efforts had gone well and the kids hoped the water would hold up long enough for them to herd mature frogs into the garden.
The kids have long since outgrown such fun activities. I no longer find hoses stretched out and left trickling, or muddy containers cluttering the creek. Hardly any of us notice the life and death race these days. Come evening time, I hear evidence several frogwogs made it to the finish line.
I’m glad this generation of frogs made it without assistance. I’m sad. I remember kids saving their ancestors.