Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 5-21-12
“Go outside and play!” my mom used to tell us, which was code language for “Don’t come in the house; I’ve got stuff to do.” Back then there were no electronic gadgets to numb our young minds, and Mama didn’t allow us back inside before lunchtime to watch television. It wouldn’t have done much good anyway since there were only five channels. We lived miles from the nearest neighbors with kids, so we had to be pretty creative. We caught crawfish in the ditches, dressed our cat in doll clothes, climbed trees and made mud pies. When my sister wasn’t in the mood to play, I just played with my imaginary friends who were always available.
When my friend Barry was growing up in the Texas Panhandle, he and his brother, Jack were especially creative when their mom issued the same edit as my mother. It had been especially wet one summer, and there was water constantly standing in the turnrows of their cotton fields. One day the boys discovered that those water puddles were teeming with tadpoles. They had fun catching them in Mason jars for a few days and then all of a sudden, there were no more. They had turned into frogs – thousands of them. They were everywhere.
They hopped all over the road and out of the ditches. They lined the plowed furrows in all the fields and crossed the roads in droves. Far from being disgusted by the amphibian overpopulation, Barry and Jack saw an opportunity for amusement. While their parents and siblings were otherwise occupied, they came up with a plan. They found two huge empty detergent boxes. They made ideal containers for capturing frogs.
With the overabundance of frogs, those boys filled those boxes in no time. At lunchtime, they lugged them in the back door quietly. They set them down in the “toy room” which was a large room at the back of the house where they kept all sorts of balls, toy cars and trucks, and wooden blocks, as well as the washer and dryer. After lunch, they went back out to play and forgot all about the frogs.
That evening, the frogs got to wiggling in the boxes and tipped them over. In the silent hours before dawn, they fanned out over the whole house. No one discovered the invasion until early the next morning, when the boys’ mother, Ann made a startling finding. As she sat on the edge of the bed, trying to wake up her sleepy brain, she looked down and saw a frog sitting between her feet. She later confessed that she would’ve gone berserk if she’d had to get up in the middle of the night and would have stepped on one in the dark.
As she stumbled toward the kitchen to make that first pot of coffee, she passed a half a dozen frogs in the hall, saw two more in the kitchen and nearly dropped her cup when she looked in the toy room. There were frogs amongst the piles of toys, between the washer and dryer and peeping out from under the door of the closet. She didn’t waste anytime waking up her mischievous boys and threatening their lives if they didn’t track down every frog in that house and put them all back outside.
That proved to be no small task. The boys searched all over that house. It was as if the frogs had multiplied in the night. They got the detergent boxes and started rounding them up. It was almost like an Easter egg hunt, except unlike boiled eggs, live frogs don’t stay where you put them. Some of the frogs had to be captured more than once or twice when they jumped out of the box.
For weeks, they found frogs. They were under the television, the sofa, and the beds. They were under the edges of cabinets and behind the toilet. They were in the window sills and under the edge of the curtains. But after all that time, many of the frogs they found were dead. They were dried up and stiff but fortunately not too stinky.
For once, Ann was glad to see the rainy weather end and a long hot Texas summer begin.