The Frog Catching Place

The Frog Catching Place

A Story by Shannon
"

Summer Days

"

I take an unfamiliar route to a familiar place. Can’t see much of the former road, just a wide treeless swath through the forest, its entrance from the gravel road blocked by wooden fence posts which were driven deep into the soil at least four decades ago. I can feel the grooves, worn into the dirt from generations of driving; clover, wild flowers and tall grasses making them invisible.


I inhale, a deep breath. Smelling the dampness - decay and life. The sight before me is both beautiful and underwhelming. As I stand, the years immediately start to peel back. A full thirty, one by one, like the pages of a calendar in reverse. Until the veil of a long-past day overlays the place before me.


*****


As I look on, they come around the corner, on a path into the clearing. The girl has strawberry-blonde hair, released from the high pony tail that keeps the fine locks confined during the school year. Her white-haired little brother trailing behind, also freed from the confines of school and the city. Several other kids are in tow: neighbours, cousins, step siblings.


They are carrying “equipment”: large gallon buckets, smaller ice cream pails, old clear deli containers (a real prize), pickle jars with holes punched in the lids, and fine-meshed nets.


The blonde boy says out loud: “The Frog Catching Place.”

It is not a description, but the name of the place given by the boy (creative soul that he is) last summer and adopted by the children.


Two ponds are split by a derelict, hard-packed dirt road. A rain barrel rusts in one of the ponds. A car, abandoned long ago, sits nearby, the remains of one front tire completely buried in mud. When the weather is dry and the mud turns to earth, the car looks as though it is being absorbed into the ground.


The ponds are surrounded by pine trees, next to aspen and poplar, creating a denseness only found in mixed forests. Wild roses, and Saskatoon berry bushes grow at the margins. Tiger lilies, clover, flat ground cover and tiny wild strawberries, that taste as though they have a whole strawberry’s worth of flavour in their diminutive fruit, spread out closer to the pond.


The water at The Frog Catching Place is clear. Until someone disturbs the thick layer of sediment and debris resting at the bottom, then a brown, rusty sludge swirls through. Cattails line the far edge, as do tall green reeds. Poplar leaves rattle in the breeze. Birds call: chickadees say their name, ravens click tongues and swallows sing brightly. Sometimes a red squirrel starts chattering, a red-tailed hawk having ventured too close to her nest.


“Jordan,” the girl leading the kids says, with all the authority her 8-year-old body and voice can muster, catching her brother’s attention, while she reminds everyone of the rules:


“Don’t go in the water without boots, or flip flops (she has added the flip flops, the adults said boots);

Don’t kill anything (except the mosquitoes, and horse flies, which are always on the executioner’s block here at the lake, so it doesn’t need to be said);

Don’t catch anything bigger than a squirrel (larger animals aren’t always safe to catch);

Let everything go before bedtime (this forest is protected by the Province; the kids protect it, too).”


This speech is met with scattered, “Yes, Sarah”s, before the kids also scatter.


Two boys and a girl use their nets to catch light colored butterflies and iridescent dragonflies. There are exuberant shouts as one of them catches a bright blue butterfly. All three children carefully transfer their catch into a clear container, along with leaves and flowers plucked from the plant upon which the butterfly was resting when captured, to help it feel at home.


Children gather briefly to admire the spectacular catch. Patting the catcher and his assistants on the back for successfully corralling such a unique specimen, before running off to attempt to one-up them.


A dark haired boy, about Sarah’s age, is hunting salamanders, which are alluringly elusive. They are motionless at times; their camouflage highly effective at hiding them from children’s eyes. Sarah goes over to negotiate.


"If you go in there, you will make the water all cloudy.” She doesn’t want that; she and Jordan have a plan today.


“But I think I can see them just under that branch,” he says pointing towards the centre of the pond.


“Okay, so why don’t you stay in this pond? I’ll take that one.”


Sarah points across the defunct dirt road, and successfully brokers the deal.


“You were right, Sarah!” Jordan says, his voice loud, as he stands on the edge of the pond and leans the upper part of his body forward to peer into the water.


Sarah and her brother examine the little frogs that are their pursuit for the day. The mission is to catch at least one at each stage, from tadpole to frog. The frogs are just emerging now. Yesterday Sarah had confidently told Jordan that there would be real frogs for them to catch today.


“So we catch one of each?” Jordan asks.


“Yes: a tadpole, a tadpole with legs, a frog with a tail and a plain frog.”

Their task outlined, they set to work. Sarah hopes the hunt will keep her brother busy for a long time. She carefully leans over the pond and retrieves ice cream pails full of water.


Jordan readies two big buckets. To one pail, he adds a few large rocks, that will break the surface of the pond water. Frogs don’t always like to swim. And remembering last summer - when all the frogs jumped out of even their biggest pail - he ensures the lid fits snugly.


The second pail is filled with pond water for tadpoles; they don’t need a break from swimming. The ice cream pail will act as a holding tank while Sarah and Jordan examine each creature to determine into which category they fall.


They start by netting some tadpoles, which are quickly transferred to the makeshift holding tank. At least a dozen of the minnow-like pre-frogs dart along the edges of the pail, looking for a way out.


After several minutes, Jordan looks up, “I can't tell which are which. How can we make them hold still?”


“Maybe we can try blocking off some with the net?”


Many minutes and awkward attempts later, Jordan has an idea. “Let’s only catch a few.”


With this new plan, they are able to identify and add a regular tadpole and a tadpole with legs to their large buckets, concurring that the tadpole with legs does not need to be in the bucket with the rocks yet.


It’s a simple matter to catch a frog. They perfected a technique the previous summer. Simply watch the plants on the shore for the twitching movement that indicates a leap, which looks very different from the smooth movement of the harmless garter snakes that sometimes also hunt the pond. Get down low and pluck the frog from the foliage, using a thumb and pointer finger on the frog’s sides between the front and rear legs. Sarah and Jordan each catch one in short order.


“Let's keep the biggest one,” Jordan decides.


Big is a relative term; these frogs reach about two inches, nose to rump. But they compare and decide to keep Jordan's catch.


Yesterday, there were many creatures swimming in the ponds that resembled frogs with tails. But today, they all seem to have disappeared. They are now the frogs leaping all around the pond, not magical disappearing creatures, but in Sarah and Jordan’s minds, there is not much difference.


More trial and error finally gives way to the blunt instrument approach. Since the frogs with tails still swim in the pond, the kids simply catch as many as they can, putting back the pure tadpoles and examining the rest more closely.


Success! Jordan calls the kids over, “we did it, we found them all!” He’s dancing back and forth one foot to another, unable to squelch his excitement.


*****


As the children conclude their hunt, the sounds of diesel engines and heavy metal doors closing are trying to pry me back into the present, poking holes in the veil of the past. Loud cracking sounds succeed and that long ago summer falls away. The road crew is using sledgehammers to hit the fence posts, a solid thwack to each side, loosening them for removal. Making way for the equipment attached to the rumbling engines.


Adult eyes look at The Frog Catching Place. The ponds are symmetrical. Rounded off rectangles of equal size that hug either side of the still visible dirt road. The remnants of the water barrel, a fuel tank for a home, sit below the surface of the water, rusty tendrils reaching out into the water around it.


I inhale fully one more time. Toxic fumes invade the smell that seemed so alive minutes ago. This breath is released unexpectedly as a sigh. It is cold enough in the early summer morning sun that my sigh is a brief, visible cloud.


I’m relieved to see the tadpoles haven’t hatched yet and only a few frogs have emerged from hibernation, as the excavator and dump truck advance down the abandoned roadway. They’re here to finish remediating the illegal junk yard that was discovered nearly forty years ago.


The soil, removed along with the junk, was never replaced, leaving two large, unnatural craters in the natural clearing. It has been decided they have no place in a pristine forest. The crew and machines are here to finish the aborted endeavor to reclaim the land.


I turn and take a familiar path, around the corner, out of The Frog Catching Place.


© 2017 Shannon


Author's Note

Shannon
Constructive feedback welcome.

A slightly more polished version (I hope) than the original

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Reviews

Very nice. I found myself reading this very slowly, not wanting the spell to be broken. Conjured up my own similar memories. Wonderful sentences. Story path was flawless and without extraneous elements. Loved this.

Posted 3 Years Ago


Thanks for the peek back into a more innocent time, thoroughly enjoyed the read!

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you for the read and review. Glad you enjoyed.
2nd line its entrance should be the entrance, easier reading. There is no verb in the sentence. The sentence structure in the first paragraph is awkward.2nd paragraph, use a coma not a hyphen after 'dampness.3rd paragraph, Hair released? 4th p equipment 'of' or consisting of. The two ponds 'split' separated maybe You have to watch for run on sentences and subject changes in one sentence.

Posted 3 Years Ago


S.Mi,
"The Frog Catching Place" This is a work of love. Memories are so real, even years later. To see somene share thier story this way really was an emotional experience. I have similar frog catching times with my siblings as well. Thanks for including me in your escapades of youth. Blessings. Kathy

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you so much Kathy. I guess I had never considered how many of us did this growing up. I am g.. read more
Thanks for the little trip back to a time of innocence and splendor, when today's electronic gadgets were only vague notions of science fiction. The young me also whiled away the days down at various little creeks, ponds and mud holes, where I caught frogs, crawdads, turtles and most anything else that appeared.
Personally, I think some shortening would make it better. Maybe because I saw so much of what you speak, the images work fine. A little error here-"...different form the smooth..."

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you for walking down memory lane a bit with me. I am learning to balance showing and telling;.. read more
Hi S. Mi

The visuals are amazing, i especially liked the image of the abandoned car being swallowed up by the ground. This is a beautiful piece, I think you got the nostalgic tone just right, immersing the reader fully and then bringing them back to reality with the climax. Well done, thanks for sharing

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you so much A. W. I appreciate the time and feedback. Reviews like this especially gratifying... read more
I thoroughly enjoyed your description of the Frog Catching Place. Isn't wonderful to go back, at least in our minds, to those places that delighted us in our childhood? I'm working on a piece now titled Where is the Atlantic City I Knew? Time changes so much and all we really have left are our fond memories. It seems like yours are golden. Thank you so much for sharing.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thanks Dave, sometimes one just needs to learn how to carefully focus a lens and frame a shot.
I enjoyed reading this very much. Your descriptions are beautiful and pulled me in right away. I wasn't sure where the story was going to go until that ending portion, and it gave me an immediate feeling of deja vu! I have experienced this very feeling many times in my life, and it is a great reminder for us to hold tightly to our precious memories because it's never quite the same when we try to go back and relive them years later. Well done!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you very much for the read and review. I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, there is sometimes a .. read more

I like this one S. You made it very clear... "you can never go home again". That or... "It's hell getting old."

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you for your take. I always enjoy hearing what others get from my writing.
Very nice story with a delightful title that evokes a sense of child-like wonder and nostalgia at once. I loved the way you structured and framed the story. The middle section lulls the reader into a care-free state of joy; then the end brings it back to reality, perfectly capturing the sadness of change. The fact that in that final paragraph, you mention 'diesel engines' and 'toxic fumes', which strikes me as another interesting theme: an idyllic natural setting paved over and replaced with industry.

I think you started the story off on a strong note; I liked the sentence "The sight before me is both beautiful and underwhelming," which I felt contained an interesting juxtaposition which parallelized the theme in the story of revisiting a place that holds a special place in one's heart after many years.

As for critiques, I have a few comments (but nothing major). There were a few spots where it seemed like you were telling rather than showing (for example, stating "I can feel the grooves..." rather than describing the feeling). Also, I felt that the sentence describing the equipment the kids were carrying was a bit confusing: "old clear deli containers (a real prize) or pickle jars with holes punched in the lids". Did you mean to use 'and' instead of 'or', or did you mean that each child was either carrying the buckets or ice cream pails, or were carrying either deli containers or pickle jars? I think that sentence can be made a little clearer.

Finally, in certain places, you use the "is ___ing" pattern, which could be expressed more succinctly. For example, "a rain barrel is rusting in..." could be expressed simply as "a rain barrel rusts in..."

All in all, great story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Hopefully you find this review useful!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 3 Years Ago


Shannon

3 Years Ago

Thank you very much for your insightful review. I am glad you enjoyed it. And I am extremely appre.. read more

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Added on July 31, 2016
Last Updated on January 10, 2017

Author

Shannon
Shannon

Canada



About
I like to explore the world through the human experience, at once both varied and singular. Reading, writing and meeting people makes one's world larger. I enjoy connecting with people, learning.. more..

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