It's raining frogs

***image1***The Lowcountry is unknown territory to a boy from the Minnesota prairie.

Turkey vultures, snakes, alligators and palmetto bugs are alien life forms to someone who moved from a ZIP code just south of Santa. And surviving the deadly crock-pot heat and humidity that you all call summer was, at times, a soggy nightmare.

But October is here. I’ve put away my cornstarch and am contemplating long pants. Days are cooler and I’ve turned off the A/C in my car and now cruise the roadways with windows down and sunroof open.

Now sub-tropical life has surprised me once again.

It rained frogs.

Last week I was driving on Hwy. 17 in Mount Pleasant, sunroof open, when I felt something land on my head. I assumed it was a cicada or palmetto bug and quickly brushed it off. I was startled to see that I’d picked up an amphibious hitchhiker – an iridescent green little frog.

OK, there was a measure of embarrassment at the next red stop light when I noticed a Bubba-type in a big pickup looking at me quizzically as my little frog hopped to and fro on my dashboard. I smiled weakly at him and punched the accelerator when the light turned green.

I can imagine what he was thinking: Another tree-huggin’ Yankee. Next thing you know they’ll be takin’ woodpeckers to lunch.

My passenger got out near the I-526 on-ramp. I was going to Daniel Island and I guess he had his sights set on the downtown peninsula. I waved goodbye, he croaked adieu and that was that.

It had been a brief, rather satisfying, encounter with one of God’s creatures. Maybe too satisfying for my little friend. I felt a wet sticky substance on the top of my head and recalled that old kids song: Froggy went a courtin’ and he did ride.

Actually, amphibians and reptiles have always been my friends. In fact, one played a key role in what I consider to be my first childhood crime. It was 1960 and my uncle was getting married to a wealthy young woman in Minneapolis whose last name, Montague, summoned images of Shakespearean wealth and power.

Stuffing five brothers and two parents into one car to make the trek north required an unusual seating chart. I was the youngest and the smallest, so I was stuffed sidelong in the back window. Actually, I loved it. Rather than be squashed defenseless between my sibling torturers, I could stretch out under the rear-window glass and stare at drivers who were behind us. It was like riding in a terrarium.

This was my first trip to the big city and Minneapolis’ downtown concrete canyons intimidated and enthralled me. And a side trip to a pet store practically sent me into rapture. Especially when I bonded with a little green chameleon priced at $2.

I went into begging mode, wore my parents down, and left the shop with my little lizard safely ensconced in a ventilated chow-mein box. If journalism hadn’t been my calling, I could have been a K-Street lobbyist.

We were staying at the swanky Curtis Hotel and, as I rode the elevator to our room, I began feeling felonious. I couldn’t imagine that reptiles or amphibians were on the approved guest list and worried that I was going to get in trouble.

I feared that my chameleon faced eviction if discovered in our room while we were at the wedding. So I slipped it into my coat pocket and I went to the ceremony with an illegal smile on my face.

My little stowaway actually helped model my behavior. Instead of fidgeting or fussing when the service became tedious, I just reached into my pocket and gently tickled its back. If you have a child who tends to be disruptive at the worst possible moments, consider giving them an amphibious or reptilian passenger. Trust me, it works.

One more thing about raining frogs: I was baffled at how that little passenger ended up in my car. But then I found a July 1901 newspaper story reporting that Minneapolis was pelted with frogs and toads. It stated: "When the storm was at its highest... there appeared as if descending directly from the sky a huge green mass. Then followed a peculiar patter, unlike that of rain or hail. When the storm abated the people found, three inches deep and covering an area of more than four blocks, a collection of a most striking variety of frogs... so thick in some places [that] travel was impossible."

Now I have the answer. This had to be a Minnesota frog that couldn’t bear the thought of another northern winter. After all, when the cold winds blow up there, it isn’t easy being green.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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