I had a disturbing incident in the garden last week. While checking the pond for fallen branches and debris, I heard a rustle and saw a long tailed creature with the head of a bulging-eyed frog creeping along. I was so shocked, I couldn’t move for a minute and the creature scurried away. Seconds later, I came to.
A small rake in my hand, I scratched along the pond’s edge and once again, the tan garter snake with a now recognizable frog in its mouth emerged. I yelled, “No, no.” as I whacked the rake down hard enough to wound. He had captured my biggest pond frog, the wide-bellied one, first to emerge from the muck this spring.
The snake was far too quick for my awkward efforts but he dropped the frog, too big to eat but not to injure. The frog was barely breathing; there was a slight twitch in his front leg. Could he survive such a brutal attack? I imagined not, but I could not bring myself to bury him in case, by some miracle, he might survive. I used the backside of the rake to lift and lay him on a lily pad where he continued to twitch.
My son, Craig, and granddaughter, Zoe, age twelve, were visiting that weekend. Earlier that day, Zoe had frolicked with the frogs—scooping them up to take a closer look then gently placing them back in the pond.
When Craig and I returned from a long walk, the frog was gone. Marv, her granddad, filled me in. Zoe had checked on the frog and noticed the twitching had stopped. She went to the garage, removed the long handled net to retrieve the frog and make certain he was dead. On her own, she searched out a shaded space, dug a hole, buried the frog and covered the grave with branches and leaves.
I first saw the tan snake with a black line down its back a few weeks ago. He was creeping around the pond’s low juniper; I assumed he was searching for eggs or pollywogs. I had no idea a snake so narrow and sleek would attack such a large frog.
Had I know, would I have tried harder to catch the snake? Some predators are too fast and wily to contain or catch. Garter snakes, mallard ducks, a gorgeous blue heron have all preyed upon the frogs. Over the years, I have learned that the best I can do is to chase the predators away when I see them. For that moment, they can do no harm and I am grateful.
Thankfully, after a full week of rain, a bevy of frogs have again emerged. Zoe and her dad have returned home. I am ever grateful to this tender child, almost a woman, for stepping up and saving me the sad task of another critter’s burial.
Great story, Faye! Zoe sounds like a resourceful and practical girl. Good for her! And good for you that she saved you from the unpleasant job of burying the frog.
Thanks, Heather! I was so pleased that she stepped up and cared— a really sweet gift!
Sorry about the frog, but charmed by Zoe and her sweet thoughtfulness and action!
Liz, you didn’t mess up… I needed to approve the post as sometimes, there is spam. Thanks for your comment. Yes, sweet thoughtfulness is a great description!
Zoa is a sensitive girl who has wisdom at a young age, and uses good judgment in times of crisis!!!
I enjoyed reading about how she reflected on the definiteness of the death of the bull frog before deciding on a proper burial spot in the shade. The frog, although no longer alive, would be grateful to know that he was handled with tender loving care by a sweet twelve year-old!
I enjoyed reading your reflections about Zoe, Bev. I found it remarkable how readily she stepped up.
Wow. I love the way this essay opens with the image of a distrubing impossibility: the frog-snake, and then manages to glide–so to speak–into a soft, familial story. Somehow, in spite of real loss, there is lift as well as calm, a most reassuring conclusion…
Rosemary, your comment—”lift as well as calm”— gave me pause. Thanks to a child’s ability to step up and bring grace to an event which was difficult and sad.