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Toad you so

Pam Stone

Just Sayin

The last few days have been something like an episode of ‘Wild Kingdom’ here at the Funny Farm. Or, to be more precise, shall I say, “Mild Kingdom,” as there’s been no Rhino ear- tagging by the hapless Jim, his weekly suicide mission dictated by Marlin Perkins, from the comfort of a voice-over booth, or fleeing from a herd of Wildebeest.

My episode has been decidedly more like something out of ‘Wind in the Willows.’

It began with finding a juvenile rat snake entwined around a saddle rack in the tack room, just as I was lifting that saddle. I jumped and made that odd noise in the back of my throat as one does when surprised by a snake at close quarters, and while I appreciated his mouse hunting duties, I removed him using the pitchfork and placed him back in the woods. He returned the next day, and the next, despite my telling him that he had hundreds of acres in the vicinity to hunt and he couldn’t live in the barn. On the fourth day I gave up, named him Steve, and we have a jolly good chinwag each morning about his exploits during the night.

(There is a dove in the arbor behind the barn, who has made her nest amongst the canes of the roses that grow over it and I have admonished Steve that those eggs are off limits).

My walk from the house to the barn is 65 steps. I actually counted that a few years ago when musing how many times I make that trek each day and how long it is. It’s a meandering little path through a copse of woods and the remnants of an apple orchard. I’ve often wondered who made the little hole by the roots of a Pin Oak and what lives there. Then one damp morning he sat, half emerged, bold as brass to meet me.

A toad.

I made the mistake of referring to him as a frog but slightly offended, he asked, “Haven’t you ever heard of ’Toad-in-a-hole?”

“The English breakfast?” I replied

“The same,” he said. “Sausages in Yorkshire pudding. It’s not called Frog-in-a-hole, is it?”

“You’re right!” I said.

“Of course I am,” he retorted matter-of-factly and retreated into his hole.

I am beyond tempted to search Match box for a vintage Jag and a pair of goggles. It was, after all, Mr. Toad’s wild ride and not Mr. Frog’s…at any rate, I’ve named him Carl and we exchange pleasantries nearly every morning.

The week was capped off as I went to move our ancient Ford Jubilee tractor out of its shed in order to drag the surface of the riding arena. Knowing it needed gas, I lifted the cover and as I did, saw a movement near the battery. It was an impossibly hot and humid day—what could possibly be alive in there? Then I saw three opened, yellow beaks and realized, but of course, a little Carolina Wren had made her nest. The tractor is clatteringly loud and it would be beyond cruel to crank it up. Sighing, I lowered the lid and used the mower, instead. The fledglings have all their feathers, it shouldn’t be long before they leave the nest.

If there’s any benefit to the lockdown, it’s having the luxury of a bit more time, not to be quite so much in a hurry, to, well, notice things more. I’m very aware how fortunate I am not to be living in a tenement or in any sort of cramped quarters in which these new friends wouldn’t be seen (and if they were, more than likely an exterminator would be called), and I’ve learned over the past three months never to take a landscape for granted.

I’ve even thought of placing doll house chairs in front of Carl’s hobbit hole, or a little bench, along with that toy Jaguar and goggles.

You’re right, I probably do have cabin fever.

But the hallucinations are pretty funny.