Monday, June 18, 2012

The Frog Whisperer

As many of you know - I am a champion.

Not just of life per se, but also of an annual event held in my in-laws town every Fathers Day for the past four or five years. That being the Father's Day Frog Jump. You may recall last year that we stormed to victory with a trophy with the Third Lightest Frog Trophy. Well this year we reemerged onto the Old Forge tennis courts with two buckets filled with Olympic-quality amphibians - and clearly the opposition quaked in fear. I'm sensing they remembered us. Certainly the photographer/reporter from the local newspaper will have found us uncannily familiar - probably thinking, "wow- that stunningly beautiful little girl in the yellow frog t-shirt that makes all the other children look deformed and grotesque in comparison - looks an awful lot like the girl in this photo that seems to be popping up in local advertising as if the paid photographer took the photos themselves...." But if they didn't recall our appearance - or hadn't checked the local paper and seen us in that as well - they surely all had heard the legend retold from one family to another about The Frog Whisperer. That would be me if you aren't following this very well.

Anyhoo -the family all took our annual trip out to our top-secret frog location to capture some top-quality frogs. We didn't take a Jeep offroading into the mountains. We didn't tow a boat out and drift about aimlessly on a lake not catching bullfrogs.. Oh no - we're now a large family with four mobile children under five years of age. This was mini-vans and butterfly nets stood on the bank hoping there would be frogs readily available so we could bugger off home for dinner quickly. Like real men (except for all the women and girls who were there obviously).
And it was piss-easy this year. It took me ten seconds to catch our first frog. I quickly wandered back to my adoring wife and amazed daughter with the frog gloating about my frog-fetching skills. My son was asleep in the car through all of this and will never imbibe the skills needed to be a frog-fiddler with that sort of commitment. Truth be told though this isn't about skill or learned behavior. No - it's innate. If I had to be honest I'd say that it's likely that I have some frog deep inside me. Or perhaps I was involved in a laboratory accident when I was accidentally splashed with some radiation (that's how that happens) and then fondled a frog quite quickly afterwards. It all depends on which legend/police report you read to understand my special relationship with my amphibian kin. Needless to say ten seconds to catch a frog indicates some sort of superhuman ability that cannot be matched by just anyone.

My wife and daughter then caught another four frogs - my daughter bagging two herself - within the next few minutes. The slimy buggers were literally throwing themselves at us. Clearly the Legend Of The Frog Fiddlers had spread out from the town out into the countryside to the frogs itself - leading to the frogs themselves hoping to fulfill some sort of odd Chosen One status. Here's my wife and daughter stood on the bank netting a couple.

And to give some notion of how many frogs there were - here's an eample of just how many tadpoles and pollywogs all over the place. Just loads of them everywhere.

After we chose our champions we even had the luxury of tossing some (steady now) back in. My son had awoken by this point and was groggily stood beside the car wondering what all the bloody noise was.

I like how that video ends like the trailer for a horror movie - with one of the frogs murderously leaping at the throat of one of them - turning them into some sort of frog-zombie that will show up later on the movie only to be killed amusingly. Perhaps with a rivet gun so there can be some sort of "ribbit" punnage involved. Anyway - the frogs were transported home - placed in five-gallon buckets with their own rock to sit on and sprayed with water. Which I can give an insight into with this photograph of my daughter hogging the camera shot. The video of the same thing below is notable for my son's manly shrieking.

Then we all bedded in for the night. Not in one massive bed like The Waltons, mind you. This may be the middle of nowhere - seemingly populated almost exclusively by Republicans urging government to stay out of their bedrooms - but that's not why. No - we had our own beds which we slept very poorly in (bah) to prepare for the big day ahead. My daughter had me tell her the story about when I was a little frog - carefree and hoppity-hopping all over a local pond until a ruggedly-handsome man showed up with a purple butterfly net and captured me (captured myself actually - which was confusing at the time I was telling it) - thereby fulfilling the prophecy. He also picked up Stumpy (the Business Frog), Lumpy (he's part camel), Bumpy (suspiciously bumpy, some say), Bobby the Banana (he was on vacation - no-one really knows why he was there) and Rumpy Pumpy (who is strangely massive - but not in the way his name would suggest that he is). Then we all fell asleep - with the bullfrog coil-spring noise twanging away all night in the garage....

Next day - after a pre-tournament family meal we arrived to find a famous figure from last year. Note how he's not flicking the V's this year - clearly warned by the authorities this year that there are some English present. Probably when they ran him through the database to ensure he wasn't on their special list of people not allowed around youngsters.

We got the frogs weighed in. My daughter's frog was 4.5 ounces. My son's was 2.1 ounces.

Just for reference - someone won the Lightest Frog trophy this year with a 0.1 ounce frog. And that number was given purely because the scale didn't move at all - but it can't way nothing. The Heaviest Frog ended up going to some with an 11 ounce monster frog. None of our family members placed at all. Which was obviously my strategy all along. Lull the fools into a false sense of security and then crush their dreams like any team does to the US national basketball team in an Olympic event.I should also probably point out at this point that nobody took a single photo of me and my kids slaughtering the peons alongside us. Everyone ended up either helping judge, manning the motivational splash buckets (rudimentary water-boarding national service basically -  engaged in by all Americans as part of their civic duty) or helping one of our kids race/rescue frogs.

Our entire families frog collection ended up racing in Heat Three of the Long Jump. This photo might give some indication of the mayhem involved. There were lanes drawn - but it's not like the frogs would stay in them. It was basically a case of measuring three hops and then adding them up to get a total length.

In the Fastest Frog competition everyone got to engage in the laughable game of pretending they had any idea which frog was theirs. That's because six frogs were placed through the top of a garbage can lid - hidden from sight - and then it was removed for them to hop out of a circle. The only way you could be sure if which was yours was if it was unusually massive tiny - oddly colored - or wearing clothing with sponsorship on it. Which in our heat worked as my daughter's frog was much bigger than the others in this race. And my son's frog was announced to be "the slimiest frog touched all day" so was easily identifiable. Whereas look at this round - they are all exactly the same.

Of course once a frog leaves the circle it's time to rassle them. And if you don't have the freakish frog-catching instincts of my daughter (who stunned many onlookers by catching four frogs that weren't her own with consummate ease) then you can apply the Australian method of Frog Stomping - as ably demonstrated by a girl below.

Finally we entered Stumpy - the big bullfrog my brother-in-law had coached over night - in the Business Frog competition. He and my father-in-law have a stump-grinding business. It's a peripheral business for both of them - but if I'm up north I automatically become a well-paid employee. Which is how I spent three hours of my Saturday - cleaning up an old ladies' mulch (not a euphemism). Anyhoo - Stumpy did us proud - by thrashing the opposition who barely moved in shock at his ability.

Which meant we (as in my father-in-law) got to take home this massive beast of a trophy for one year - engraved with the Stump Ugly business name on it for all posterity. That's the woman who runs the competition holding it ready to present it (which I shockingly don't have a photo of for you) - and the guy who does all the announcing and makes it fun in the green helmet.

My daughter though - she stormed off with a trophy of her own. Winning First Place in the Longest Jump competition.

Which makes us notable Champions Of All We Survey once again. Obviously we'll be back next year. Maybe our frogs will too. They were taken back to their secret locale to go home to their own families. And we then drove home south too to get on with our own yard work at our own house. My wife is one of those mental people that spends hours reading about hostas - which Google accurately helps with predictive text by offering "hostage" as what you were likely trying to spell. Everyone else slept in the car for the hour drive complete with trophies, medals for each of the kids and a headache for my wife. Me - I just wanted to be closer to my sausages.

The Legend Lives On.....

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