Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Smartest Toads Live Here

            While my sixth grade classmates loved listening to our teacher read Wind in the Willows, I found it silly.  Toads talking and acting like people, no way.  This attitude toward anthropomorphic creatures was a childhood peeve.  I wanted critters natural. 

            To this day, I find stories with talking animals silly.  Despite this curmudgeonly attitude toward this genre, I do like toads. Fortunately, this summer has provided daily opportunities to observe a pair of toads residing in our patio planters.

            Looking at a toad, you wouldn’t think it overly bright, but these two must lead their class based on their behaviors.

            Before summer officially arrived, these fellows demonstrated their smarts.  Our little section of parched prairie made growing anything a challenge.  Instead of investing in a big flowerbed, I decided a few well-chosen pots with bright blooms would make it seem like summer even if I couldn’t justify the water needed to grow a lush flower garden. Those green gents determined which pots stayed cool and damp longest and moved in.  Initially, they lived separately, one in my mixed bloom bucket and the other in a geranium pot. 

As May days lengthened and warmed, the geranium toad must have checked out the mixed bloom pot because next thing I knew, I had two toads coming up for air out of the same hole when I watered.  Their toad hole was deep enough that one could rest on the other’s head and still leave the top toad covered in potting soil to his bulging eyeballs.

For a while they seemed content in the mixed bloom pot, but as it grew hotter and drier, both toads abandoned that pot for my herb garden.  I guess it was insulated a little better.  Watering time became an adventure.  I never knew exactly where I would find my garden buddies.

In addition to relishing comfortable living conditions, these guys exhibited the signs of a healthy appetite.  They are wider and longer than my palm--a result of their canny culinary skills. 
While other toads in our yard gather nightly under the yard light, these amphibians discovered the patio light draws insects equally well and  is not nearly so long a journey.  Intelligently, they waited until the cool of evening before emerging over the lip of their home one amphibian limb at a time.  Then they let the porch light work its magic. 

One night, I interrupted their fashionably late supper.  Both toads had rooted themselves directly under bright beams, gobbling beetle after beetle as insects dropped to the patio.

 While I watched, these big boys didn’t move more than a couple of inches as they went through a twelve-course meal’s equivalent.  I wish I had watched long enough to see them lug distended, white bellies back into the flower pot I found them in the next morning.

As much fun as I have had this summer watching my two patio toads, I may need to give Wind in the Willows another try.  Obviously, there is more to that story than I caught back in sixth grade.

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