It wasn’t my fault, I swear. Okay, one could argue that it was sort of my fault, but there was no mens rea—meaning I had no premeditated intent to flush the frog.
Let me back up a little. When we bought our Southern home thirteen years ago, it was fronted by an attractive pair of ponds, a smaller one up by the porch just outside our front door, which is linked by a spillway to a larger pond down by the driveway. In response to our query about its maintenance, the then-owners told us it that it barely required any attention at all, and that it pretty much took care of itself. It does not. One recurring problem is that the concrete spillway develops cracks every couple of years. This spring, when it again needed repairing, we coated the entire spillway with a rubberized spray paint. We had to give the product a day to cure, but on an especially lovely, warm afternoon, I was ready to give it a test run.
But first, there’s something else you have to know about our ponds: We don’t have fish; we have frogs. We didn’t set out to have frogs. We didn’t invite them. At an early point in our residency, they just came and made their home, usually a couple in the top pond and as many as four in the bottom pond. We enjoy the sound of them chirping on a warm evening and the sight of them sunbathing on a sunny day, so we don’t mind these amphibious squatters, though they are not always the easiest tenants.
By last spring we’d delayed a much-needed cleaning of the lower pond for well over a year because we didn’t want to disturb their abode, but finally the stagnant water – we weren’t running the pump regularly – got to be a disturbingly brilliant shade of green. So we buckled down to clean the ponds. Wearing waders, my wife was in the lower pond cleaning the clumps of pine needles and leaves from around the pump, whilst I manned the Shop-Vac to suction the water out over the edge of the pond. We’d trapped the largest of the three frogs that were living in the lower pond and transported him to the upper pond, where we hoped he would leave the resident frogs alone. Then we put the two smaller frogs in a bucket for safekeeping, but one immediately hopped out and back into the pond. He hid under the edge of a rubber flap of the pond liner, apparently figuring if he couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see him. Eighty per cent of his body was sticking out from behind the flap, so it wasn’t the best hiding place, but we left him alone as we continued to clean.
I was emptying the dirty pond water onto the driveway, when I noticed tiny, translucent things flopping around on the pavement. I pointed it out to my wife, and we realized that we’d sucked up hundreds of tadpoles. Since we’ve never had more than a few frogs in each pond, I assume that the vast number of tadpoles don’t generally survive. Nevertheless, my tender-hearted wife leapt out of the pool and began trying to rescue them. If it moved, she gently scooped it up and put it back in the pond, though with so many, by the time she reached the last of them, she was pretty much just launching them back into the water. I confess I was not much help. I was laughing and taking pictures, because just to add to the general confusion, a small dog had come to visit and was humping my wife’s leg as she tried to rescue tadpoles.
Which brings me back how a frog got flushed. That unusually warm January day after the spillway had been coated, I went out to test the waterproofing. I idly noted that a couple of the smaller frogs were basking amidst the foliage in the upper pond, but failed to consider the law of cause and effect. I turned on the pump and watched with satisfaction as the water began to flow. Then one of the frogs shot past me down the spillway, carried by a cascade of water. He momentarily regained his footing and I rushed to turn off the pump, but it was too late. Sploosh! He took a high dive off the spillway and into the lower pond.
I assume he’s all right. We’ve not seen his corpse floating around, which has happened before. I hope he found his way back up to his missus in the upper pond – it’s much cosier than the lower one and has a bale with lovely fronds. But if he was too baffled to figure out where his comfortable home had disappeared to, I hope he’s made friends with the frogs of the lower pond. Just not such good friends that we end up with another three hundred tadpoles this year!