Back when we still lived in the little mountain town of Boulder Creek, small children (such as us) were often drafted into performing various disgusting, terrifying, or dangerous jobs with a nod given to “building character.” MILK got out of most of these because, in our step mom’s eyes, building character is mostly reserved for boys. So, when it came time to go get more firewood in the dark of the spider-topia we called the wood pile it was one of the boys who got to do it. MILK would be offered more marshmallows for her cup of cocoa and additional mattresses to protect her delicate spine from any wayward peas.
That’s more or less why Smokey and I found ourselves standing at the edge of our family friend’s pool one evening, a pool which had a biblical-plague-level frog infestation. We’d been promised swimming. We’d been lied to. We’d been drafted.
“Alright boys, round up all those frogs and throw them in a bucket… it’ll be fun!” Dad said. He set a bucket down and walked off to find a beer. MILK skipped gleefully over to the resident girls to play and watch the boys get dirty. (I can see the logic of it now that I have sons. Honestly, is there really anyone better suited to frog-catching than little boys? It’s like sending an Irishman to be a cop in Boston.)
The croaking of the frogs was cacophony as we surveyed the scene.
“That’s the most frogs I’ve ever seen,” Smokey offered, tipping his hat to the universe for such an impressive oddity.
“Yep,” I nodded. There is, after all, no other way to answer that sort of obvious statement. The frog plague was like a glistening, undulating pool cover.
Given no other direction or route of escape, we hopped to work, just jumped right in there…dealt with it warts and all. Ok I’ll stop.
We spent at least an hour catching frogs with a pool net and our bare hands and scooping them into a five gallon bucket. The adults shouted encouraging advice and light heckling from the peanut gallery. When you live in the woods, activities like ridding the neighbors pool of a frog pestilence naturally become a social event. BBQ’s are lit, beers are put on ice, small children are drafted into labor. A frog rodeo makes a great spectator sport.
“Hey ya missed one, you got to be faster than that, son!” Our dad’s friend yelled as he shined a semi-helpful flash light. It was getting late in the day and the sky was darkening. The little amphibian’s eyes glittered with the reflection.
“Be sure to check the hot tub” One of the moms gestured with a strawberry daquiri. “We got plans for that later…ha!”
Finally we slipped the last of the little hoppers into the bucket and closed the lid. We were beat, but we were rewarded with ice cream and on the drive home we emptied the bucket into the creek that ran alongside the road. I’m sure the person who lived above the creek in that section really appreciated the sudden explosion in the frog population.
We got home and we went to bed to dream of frogs. But the frogs were not done with us. Not by a long shot.
In the middle of the night I woke up and my eyes were on fire. Based on the yelling coming from the other bed Smokey was having a similar reaction. Our parents came running in and turned on the lights in the bedroom. This was when I discovered I was blind. “Noooooo… I can’t see… aaaaaaahhhhh!” I yelled, already picturing a world where my dog ran my life and I sold pencils out of a can.
“Meeeee toooooo” Smokey wailed, hands outstreached like a mummy in an old horror film.
Our dad accessed the situation, two stick skinny boys with giant, puffy red eyes. “Hmmmmm I bet some frog poison got on your hands and then you rubbed your eyes.” He paused thoughtfully. “So when I asked you to go wash your hands….” He said, letting the lesson settle in on its own.
“I’ll call poison control,” Smokey’s mom sighed. “Again.”
“We’re going to be blind forever,” I moaned, thinking of all the Warner Brothers cartoons I’d never see again. Smokey just wept at the certainty of it all.
Smokey’s mom reappeared. “Well the bad news is they are both probably going to be blind,” She deadpanned.
“What???!!! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!” I freaked out and took Smokey with me. He panicked and crashed into a towel rack.
“I’m kidding, both of you in the shower…NOW.” She commanded.
“What?? a shower??? But it’s Saturday,” I pleaded out of pure reflex.
“We could use the hose out front but it’s kinda cold…” Dad offered. In the 80’s you could wash your truck and your children with the same hose in the front yard and nobody would blink an eye. In the 50’s in some states I think you could hit em with it too, but I digress.
We took the shower and both stood there staring into the water stream as ordered.
For the briefest moment, as I blinked into the stream of shower water, I thought maybe – just maybe – this would be my spider-man moment. I would come out of all the pain with x-ray vision, at the very least.
Eventually the toxins washed away and we both only require minor prescription lenses as we push into our forties. In my family, that’s as close to a miracle as it gets… Frog Power!