Toads to Perdition

[to experience the full effect of this post, please scroll to the bottom and click the PLAY arrow on the soundtrack first!]

Oh, hello! Good morning! Are you awake?! I know that a great many subscribers are tuning into Live Clay at work, so let’s all take a moment to make sure the volume on our computers is ON, and turned way up high. Ahhhhh. Hear that?

I felt inspired today to share with you the sounds that for about four weeks in April-May define our nights and early mornings. No, it’s not a gaggle of screaming old ladies. It’s not your response to the Tax Man. It’s Woodhouse Toads in our backyard, emerging resplendent from their muddy winter sleeps feeling all sexy and ready to mate.

At this period, after his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic towards the end of Lent. His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large. This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature…
–George Orwell, Some Thoughts on the Common Toad

The toads are uninvited guests who showed up shortly after I built our pond 10 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t unwanted. They eat all kinds of bugs and spiders, and their hunting territory even extends to my neighbors’ yards; it’s just the mating shrieks from dusk ’till dawn that lend a rather morose aspect to our Spring soundtrack. Did you know that toads scream and chirp from some organ not in their mouths? There are a lot of surprising things about toads that people probably don’t know.

Remember those children’s books, The Adventures of Frog and Toad? I loved those books, but to my young mind, there was always a bit of a competition: who was the better man, Frog or Toad?

Both characters were well-drawn, handsome, and dressed in cool clothes (for boys). Their respective traits were highlighted in moral stories of friendship, empathy, and cookie-hiding. But if Mr. Loebel had been honest, really honest, and told the whole story about toads…

And after saying good-night to his best friend  lover, Frog, Toad went out into his backyard and started screaming like his head was on fire. Soon, his screams were answered by Girl Toad. As she drew near, Toad leapt onto her back and clung with all his three-fingered might like there was no tomorrow. Having been denied long arms by a cruel evolutionary twist, Girl Toad was unable to remove Toad. In fact, she lacked the wits to even contemplate such a choice, and was thus destined for the next many weeks to carry her burden until she spawned, or died of starvation because she was unable to hunt (whichever came first).

Now that would have made for a more balanced story and informed decision when it came to Frog vs. Toad. And come to think about it, may have even affected the outcome of my own future choices involving love and marriage. Yes, too much idealism can be a dangerous influence on the young, developing conscience. Beware, new parents, of the subliminal messages in picture books that only tell part of the story.

This could have been me. Oh wait, it was me…

Speaking of relationships, this week my mother and two of her high school friends (a couple she was recently reacquainted with after 85 years) are trying to set me up with their son. Like, romantically. We don’t live in the same state. We are supposed to email each other but neither of us has made a move. I’m thinking of just sending this soundtrack with no words. What do you think?

I hope this post will be received by my regular readers as an invitation to share in, if only for 2.57 minutes, my Springtime suffering–a selfless act that will surely strengthen our empathetic bond.  As for my new subscribers, I could think of no better way to say hello and thank you than by welcoming you with nature sounds. Greetings! I’m sure my friend Emily over at The Waiting thinks she has it hard with a newborn… well, think again, because guess why? Babies grow up. They learn to sleep and talk and repress their feelings. Toads just multiply. And Stacie of Gemini Girl in a Random World is getting ready to go visit her dad on a mysterious farm (she suspects it might involve ducks with extra legs) in the South. Guess what your dad needs, Stacie? Yeah, mysterious screams to go with his mysterious farm. Then there’s the clever Guapola, forever taking polls with funny answer choices. Know what the funniest answer of all would be, Guap? Just link up the toad soundtrack, my friend. No words necessary. Last but not least, Momma’s Money Matters, who receives more unwarranted, unintelligible hate mail than any blogger I know, and who writes THE funniest responses… What’s the one thing that will leave your hatemailers speechless, Red?  That’s right, Toads.

25 thoughts on “Toads to Perdition

  1. My old laptop recently went belly-up after emitting shrill screams and screeching as the inards malfunctioned..

    When I opened this post, my initial thought was that my new laptop was planning an early departure. I was relieved to note that it was only the toads in your back yard.

    Great post!

    Opa Dick

  2. I think by 3 I’d had enough, gentleman toads please leave the lady toads alone! In your position I think I’d have to move out or declare war on the toads.

    And is your mum really 97(ish)? Blimey!

    R xx

    • War on toads… the only problem is, even if I get rid of those that are here, I think more would show up to take their place. I don’t know where they come from or how they get into my yard! I suppose filling in the pond would fix their wagon. Hmf. I won’t tell my mom that you think she looks 97 yrs old. Thanks for that, Roggie.

  3. As an expert in Toadish, it is clear that you are hearing the screams of the female toad saying, “Get the fuck off my back, you perv!” Seriously, this is one hilarious post. I don’t know how you have the energy to write anything after listening to this all night.

    This part is just too funny:

    “Having been denied long arms by a cruel evolutionary twist, Girl Toad was unable to remove Toad. In fact, she lacked the wits to even contemplate such a choice, and was thus destined for the next many weeks to carry her burden until she spawned, or died of starvation because she was unable to hunt (whichever came first).”

    Thanks for making my first week back a funny one, my dear. BTW, I was talking about you the other night to a friend whose wife is also a potter. Among other things, she makes yarn pots – sooooo cool!

    • Howdy, stranger! Thanks for stopping by for a little education in Toadish and get-the-f-off-my-back! Yes, it is symbolic of more than you could imagine at this point (having only been BFFs for a short time…) Hope your move was smooth–doesn’t that sound like an Ex-Lax commercial?? I’m actually trying to catch up on bloggie things after being sick all weekend… Anyway, as always, I really appreciate your feedback!

  4. My daughter is across the office on her computer. When this came up, she startled. “Momma! What is that?” She came over and saw the first picture and said, “Oh, look! Toads!”

    Yes, nature training with autistic children is fun. (Silently scores 10 science minutes in homeschool book.) Love it. And I think setting my email to the hatemailers to this soundtrack would be delightful!!!

    Thanks for the mention!
    Red.

  5. You deserve the mention, with the great (and funny!) writing on your blog each and every week! I didn’t know that about nature sounds + autistic kids… cool! BTW, I think that your REPLY to some of the hatemailers should just be this link. They can open their emails and be screamed at by someone other than you! Then interpret as they will.

  6. Wow, those toad screams will haunt me for life.
    I just want to say that your excellent rendition of Toad’s mating fantasy would be fine, if he and Frog weren’t already a couple. In addition to literary mastery, Frog and Toad stories documented the regular life of the first gay couple I read about as a child (well, I guess after Ernie and Bert).
    And I think you should write to that guy, without the screams.

    • OH! Wow, I never considered that other Frog & Toad [not so subliminal, I’m slow] message… yes, the first gay couple you imprinted on which has undoubtedly enhanced your sense of inclusion for all peoples. And amphibians.

  7. Second-favorite line in this post: “Yes, too much idealism can be a dangerous influence on the young, developing conscience.” Ahhhh, the depths that idealist (and sometimes not so ideal) love can reach. I’m guessing, that like me, you’re a “fixer”…convinced that through love, compassion, and kindness, you can repair even the most damaged soul. Am I right?

    My favorite line in this post, is of course, “And Stacie of Gemini Girl in a Random World is getting ready to go visit her dad on a mysterious farm (she suspects it might involve ducks with extra legs) in the South.” Thank you for the shout-out. I’ve got a baker’s dozen of blog ideas that stemmed from my visit to southern, small town USA…the first of which will appear later this week if the sun will stop shining long enough for me to stay inside.
    =)

    • Oh, I wish you were right, Stacie, and I was just a fixer. No, I’m the opposite, perhaps unrealistically expecting that everyone over the age of 25 is actually a grown-up. Sadly, not so. I guess I’m an Expecter. And that’s dangerous, because you know what they say… expectations are just disappointments waiting to happen. Seeing the ‘whole picture’ is a much better basis for decision-making. Then you can repress the ugly stuff later!

      Can’t wait to hear about your Tales from the South. I’ll bet it involves fried food and synthetic-fibered clothing. Am I right?

  8. You should send Jerry this recording. If he tells you never to contact him agian, he might be worth pursuing.
    I need to close this broswer now before my head explodes…

    • Wait… who’s Jerry? Should I know him? Maybe in the hysteria before your head exploded, your hallucinated the name of the guy I’m supposed to contact? If so: yes, that was my thought, too! If he responded positively to the recording, it would be a clear sign to run. If not… well, who knows what treasure may lie beneath those murky waters.

  9. I thought it might be “I don’t know what!”…..it is late, I am in my studio alone…but when I hit the “decrease volume” button…I felt ok…..and sooo interested! This is great info!……..who’s Jerry? None the less, loved the post!

    • The thing that surprises me the most about toads is how they “talk” to each other. At least during spawing season! The other thing that surprises me is how millions of tadpoles all seem to eventually disappear. The first year I had the pond, I remember a great migration of tiny toads out of the pond. But ever since then, we don’t see many. I blame the gold fish, even tho supposedly they don’t eat tads (but koi do). I think the frog was eating them, too, but now the frog must be dead because we don’t hear it anymore.

  10. oooooooh…I get it now. that’s very entertaining. you’re very heroic to live with that every year. me, I think I’d go spare (as we say in England) = fricken craaaazy! are your neighbours still friendly??! and the ‘true’ story you penned so well should definitely be told to all!… maybe a bit tough on the kiddies, mind… (the sound, by the way, came up last time when I clicked on ‘comment’ on your most recent post – and that was why it made no sense at the time).

  11. It’s a bit disruptive at the start of every season, but then we kind of just get used to it. The new lullaby. I’m glad you enjoyed the true story and I say: let those kiddies fend for themselves after a little true-life nature lore! Nothing a little therapy can’t adjust later in life. ;)

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