My story this week will fall under the misadventure category. June 15 marked the opening of frog season, which unfortunately, fell on a Monday this year. Although Mondays are never an issue for me, with my outdoor lifestyle friendly work schedule, it was an issue for my 8-4 friend JB. So our first foray to the frog ponds would have to wait until five nights later, when our schedules coincided, on a Saturday night. A lot can change in five nights time!
The weekend before, coming back from a trip at the river catfishing, we decided to take a tally of the frogs on my pond. It had been a week or so since the last rain, and with the water level below the weed line, there were 10 "eating size" frogs around the perimeter. Heading back to the house we were confident that the next weekend was going to equal limits of frogs for anyone that joined us.
Then it started to rain, and rain, and rain. Has the rain stopped since June 16? We didn't put too much thought into how the rain would affect our frog gigging attempt. At dusk, on Saturday, JB came over to my house and, along with my youngest son, Ayrton, we made the trek to my pond. All the rain that had fallen over the course of that week had caused the water level to rise so that it was backed up into the weeds. Since frogs primarily reside on the water's edge, and the water's edge was now obscured by foliage, they had become nearly impossible to see! Half an hour of struggling to find a bullfrog, with nothing to show for it, we made the decision to try a new location.
Many years before, as a teenage boy, I had discovered a seemingly magical pond. One where limits of frogs, 25 in case you wondered, could be harvested in less than an hour. A place where the supply seemed to never end. A place I only spoke of in hushed tones for fear that someone else would discover my honey hole. As happens, all to often, the property was sold and my frog mecca was lost to me. Enter my friend JB, The Permission Ringer, as I call him. JB would seem to have a connection with every property owner that we encounter. Upon hearing the story from my youth, JB wasted no time in contacting the land owner, and we were on our way to my froggy paradise.
Arriving at our destination, it quickly became apparent the rains that had filled my ponds to the point of overflowing had a similar effect on our second spot. Instead of being backed into the weeds, as they were at home, the water was up against steep rock banks of a coal pit. Steep banks with briers and fallen trees along the edge. Ayrton was wearing his rubber knee boots, JB his rubber hip waders and I, unprepared as usual, was wearing leather slip on boots. The only saving grace heading into this mess was the deafening roar of frogs emanating from the darkness below. I know what you are thinking... Deafening roar of frogs? Yes, as we descended into the pit the sounds of their courtship songs bouncing off the pit walls was uncomfortable at best.
The excitement mounted and as we turned on the floodlight, to see the sight before us, we were in awe of the sheer number of glimmering frog eyes reflecting back at us. Our attention focused on our quarry and to our chagrin every frog we saw was slightly smaller than what we wanted to harvest. We decided to split up, JB to the opposite bank, and Ayrton and I would walk the near bank. Twenty yards down the bank Ayrton found a "big one." I held the light and he walked over and took the first frog of the season.
Confession time, I'm not an accurate gigger. I miss far more frogs than I get. I love eating them but I'm lousy at harvesting them. Ayrton, on the other hand, seems to be a natural. He rarely misses, and I'm content to watch him revel in his accomplishment.
With the first frog in the bag we continued down the bank in search of our next prize. Obviously, with the sheer numbers of frogs, it didn't take long to find another, and with two in the bag the night was starting to look up. About this time I vaguely hear JB, over the din of frogs, from across the pit, mutter a few choice phrases. It would seem that the thorns had wreaked havoc on his hip boots, and upon entering the water to investigate a frog, he realized they had developed a leak.
100 yards of fighting thorns and fallen trees later, with the battery from my spotlight long expired, and boots filled beyond capacity with pond gunk, we decided to throw in the towel and call it a night. We struggled back up the near vertical face of the pond bank and slogged back to the truck. Upon reaching the truck we assessed the night's total haul. Three frogs for Ayrton, one for me (caught bare handed no less), and zero for JB. Four frogs to show for three hours of sweaty, dirty labor.
Lessons learned: high water makes for difficult frogging. Was it fun? Yes. Would I go again knowing how it would end? Yes. Nights like these make the stellar nights all the sweeter. Nights like these let you appreciate being out there with people who enjoy the moment just as much as you. But you better believe when the rains finally subside, and the water levels recede, that there a few frogs out there with my name on them!
Jon is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 21. He can also be reached via email at email@example.com.