The Little Tree Frog

In the Summer of 1972 I was sitting by my campfire thinking about my life and feeling very lonely.  I watched the glowing embers in my campfire pulsate as they gave off their heat.  I noticed the flames flicker up and down in a hypnotic dance orchestrated by a natural phenomenon so important to man’s survival.  A few campsites down I heard the laughter of a young couple and their children enjoying one another’s company.  As the flames bent slightly, a light breeze passed through my hair with a long puff before moving on.  I waited for the next one to come, but it never came.  I felt cheated and disappointed.  Distracted by my feelings for a short time, the campfire lured me back into its midst & mystery.

As I continued my gaze, my thoughts returned to my latest romantic encounter with a beautiful, young girl who expressed some interest in me.  We dated steadily for a couple of months, and I began to have some serious feelings for her; and she for me, based upon her recent declaration that she loved me.  Her declaration of love scared me as I would be returning to college in the fall to finish my education, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with that.  As I thought deeply on how to respond to her, my thoughts about romance suddenly vanished as fear gripped and engulfed every inch of my body.  A small, wet projectile of some force suddenly landed on the back of my neck and stuck like glue.  It didn’t hit me and fall to the ground like a stick or some other inanimate object, but it grabbed me firmly in such a way that my natural instincts awoke and yelled, “It’s alive, it’s alive.”  Frightened out of my skin by an unknown something stuck to my neck, I swept the back of my neck with my hand, scrapping the cold, damp blob off onto the ground.  My whole body reacted to the intrusion of this “thing” by an all out adrenaline rush in preparation for a life saving struggle with the devil himself.

As soon as I scrapped the “thing” off my neck, I looked to my right and saw a small green frog jump toward the campfire.  Greatly relieved, I said out loud, “Hey little feller, you scared me half to death.”  I kept track of the little frog as he jumped several more times toward the the fire.  “If he continues traveling in this direction,” I questioned, “Surely he won’t jump right into the fire?”  What happened next amazed me, and it still does to this day.  If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.  As I watched the little frog, he stood motionless for a time, then turned a couple different directions before jumping.  His jump landed him onto the very edge of the fire.  Again, he sat there for several seconds before taking a second leap smack dab into the middle of my fire.  Like a frog, he squatted there for a while as if in a stupor unable to move with no apparent concern for the hot flames bouncing around him.  I wondered how long he’d stay there before saving  himself.  I knew the moisture on his body provided some protection, but I became concerned about his inability to learn from his first experience in fire hopping.  After what seemed to be a long time of baking, he jumped away never to be seen again.  His actions gave me a poor opinion of a frog’s intellect.

Not a deep thinker myself, the frog’s behavior amused me and got me to thinking about frogs in general.  after some thought I concluded frogs do three things well:  jump, eat, and mate.  Frogs must jump without ever knowing where they might land.  Frogs jump because that’s what frogs do.  They jump well, so they just keep jumping and jumping until something happens.  If they come across an edible insect during their hopping, they stick out their sticky tongue and gulp it down.  In this frog’s case he jumped and landed on my neck and stuck really well, scaring me half to death—nothing edible there.  Later he jumped and landed right in the middle of my campfire–nothing edible there either.  I know I’m not a frog, but to me neither my neck or the fire seemed like a good landing choice unless he was about to crash.  Both places could have ended in disaster for the frog.  I could have become very upset and stood up and stomped the little feller’s guts out, and the fire he landed in could have cooked him.  Maybe, in his line of business he’s a gambler and likes to play the odds of jumping into space and betting that he will find food or a mate upon landing.  I suppose if you do several things well and keep doing them all your life, one can be successful.  I reckon you could say the little, green tree frog is an expert.

The next day I awoke, packed up my tent and gear, and planned to travel home that morning.  Before going home I walked along the campground road to get some exercise.  While walking I looked down and spotted a frog smashed flat by a 4,000 pound car.  The dried-out carcass had been there for some time, but I recognized it for what it once was; it was a frog.  This member of the frog family supported my earlier opinion about the intellectual ability of frogs and their decision making abilities in deciding when and where to jump.  This frog, like the little green one last night, jumped without any care or thought about where it landed, and it landed in a most dangerous place right in the middle of a roadway.  Being an expert jumper, it jumped onto the roadway and planted itself there while  nonchalantly waiting for a 4,000 lb. car to bore down upon it; and splat, the flat frog was history.  Frogs must be really dumb:  jumping, eating, and mating.  Maybe that’s all they know.  I know, I must be ambivalent about frogs.  One minute I thing they’re an expert, then the next minute I thank their really dumb.  Maybe they’re both, do you think?

In another year I would be graduating from college, but I didn’t know what direction I wanted to travel in my life’s journey.  After graduation I thought seriously about buying a backpack,tent, and some cooking gear and loading it up in my 1971  Pinto. It would be fun to camp at some of the National Parks dotted throughout the United States before settling down.  If I jumped, where would I land?  Would I land in the fire without awareness of my situation like the tree frog.  I wondered how many times in my life so far I’ve taken a jump without knowing much about the landing zone, or what would happen when I got there.  What about my girlfriend?  Can I trust her?  On some days I don’t feel much smarter than a frog.  I reminded myself, “Self, just because you feel as dumb as a frog today, doesn’t make you dumb.  What’s the evidence for you being dumb?”  I decided not to answer that question today.  I opened the car door, started my Pinto, and drove home full of questions and doubts.  Please, no comments about my 1971 Pinto.  It gave me good service at $2200 brand new & no fire.

When I arrived home I unloaded my car.  After completing that task I went directly to the telephone and called my girlfriend.  I asked her if it would be okay if I came over around seven that night.

“No, I don’t want you to come over tonight or any other night.  I don’t want to ever see you again,” she said, with emphasis on never seeing you again.

I didn’t know what to say as it caught me off guard.  Needing to say something, I spoke, “I thought you told me you loved me the other night.”  She immediately hung up her phone, and that was the last time I ever saw her.  At that moment I felt a kinship to the little, green tree frog and the larger flat one ran over by a car.  In between hops, do frogs ever feel rejected; if not, maybe being a frog isn’t all that bad.  garland dale

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One Response to The Little Tree Frog

  1. Danny says:

    Hey dad, Like i’ve heard you tell me…life is not without is heartaches and pain, but the choices you make soon after tend to have the biggest impact…or something to that effect if memory serves correct. I like the story about the little, green frog. I’ve heard it before, but never grow tired of hearing about it. Love you Dad! I have a blog, don’t know if I’ll keep it up. But we’ll see. It’s at http://dhesterly.typepad.com

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