Poetry and musings of a zany Mormon girl who is very proud of her Erda roots.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pool of the Toads

When I was a kid, we were so poor that my dad dug a hole in the back yard, lined it in thick, black plastic, stuck an electric fence all around and called it a swimming pool.

I don't remember if it was *actually* an electric fence, but I do remember being terrified of climbing it, or getting too close to it, or generally touching it at all. My parents may have lied to me about being electrocuted by the fence if any unsupervised swimming practices were floating through my five-year-old brain.

In any case, that little pool was awesome! Black plastic absorbs sunlight, so we had a solar heated pool! One side of the pool featured stair-steps of compact earth under the plastic which made a great place to lean back and relax in the warm water or to balance on while learning to kick in the water. I learned to dog paddle. It's the only swim stroke I know.

We would bask in the bathtub-warm water and watch the sunset. My older brother and sister (Numbers Two and One, respectfully) would push dead june bugs floating on the surface of the water toward me and shriek with delight as I'd shriek in abject terror. We'd just sit and listen to the cicadas and crickets chirp as the lightning bugs blinked on and off, on and off. Ahhh, lazy days of summer -- to be a child again with no concept of vacations.

Before the city made us fill in the pool/hole, it served as a haven for local toads in the Autumn.

These toads were our friends.

Each of us kids had an individual toad that was our special pet.

We tried getting warts from them, kissing them into princes, holding onto them for as long as possible, and generally anything that wouldn't kill the toad.

We were raised with a healthy respect for all forms of life. We were far more prone to save the little animals and whatnot instead of killing them. Remind me to tell you about the baby birds, kittens, raccoons, and caterpillars some time. Except . . . there was that one apple tree that only gave rotten fruit we tried to kill by skinning all of the bark off. Hmmm, I guess there were also the slugs that got salted, bees that were routinely sprayed, and flies I used to squash between the window and roll-down curtain. Ah, well those things deserved it; we really were raised with respect for life.

The toads came around the same time I got a book of reptiles and amphibians on a once-in-a-blue-moon trip to the bookstore. I loved staring at that book and reading up on weird things like two-headed salamanders. I learned as much as I could about toads from that book, grabbed a clean plastic container from the kitchen, punctured air holes into the lid, placed down a little grass, and shoved a toad inside for show and tell in the morning before school. I'm sure my first grade class didn't think the toad was nearly as cool as I did. But I recited my facts about toads anyway and included speculations about what species of toad I had found in our swimming pool. Towards the end of my presenation, the toad did something I wasn't expecting.

It peed on me.

A sticky stream of slime squirted out of the creature and coated my hand. Quickly shoving the toad back in it's plastic jail and securing the lid, I acted nonchalant as I strode over to the classroom sink saying something about how they pee sometimes. Applying liberal amounts of soap, I attempted to scrub the toad ick off of me but to no avail. That toad had been seriously put out when it did it's business all over me. I had toad on me for the rest of the day and avoided using my hand for anything non-critical.

That should have been the last time I played with toads but I'm sure it wasn't. I took the show-and-tell toad home, let it out into the wild, and was upset when I didn't ever see that exact toad ever again.

Sometimes when you really like something/someone and it/he/she doesn't like you back and tries to tell you in no uncertain terms how ardently they loath your very presence, you should listen to them and not parade them in front of your friends as your new pet. Lesson learned the hard way.

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