Temperatures dropped and snowflakes flew long enough to blanket our yard and the field behind it. Despite a chilly reminder that winter isn’t quite over, I have spring on my mind. Recent days warm enough to wear short sleeves reminded me to deliver our grandkids’ sand and water table so they could enjoy it over spring break. Our youngest grand has already tried out hers out. Seeing a photo of that little blonde dumping shovels full of sand into her bucket recalled memories of her mom and aunt’s happy hours in their sand-filled tractor tire.
While we weren’t farmers with our own big equipment, friends who made a living driving a big John Deere offered us one of their gigantic discarded tires. We rolled it to a spot close to the back door so I could do dishes or cook while listening to our youngsters’ cheerful chatter as they sifted sand, wetted it, and used old measuring cups and bowls to mold castles and other fanciful structures inside their three-foot-wide rubber moat.
When I had time, I joined them in creating architectural wonders or baking luscious desserts concocted from ingredients available within their tire and the surrounding yard. Each of us selected a dainty plastic pan to form our pastry. Once we finished packing dampened dirt, we’d slowly remove our creation, hoping it didn’t crumble during the process. Using leaves and flowers we found in the yard, we decorated our culinary delights. The girls were wizards at designing inedible works of art. As good as these looked, only a chicken pecking for a little gizzard grit would enjoy eating them.
Every now and then, I’d hear wild shrieks and race outside to see sand flying. This signaled the girls had found a live bug in their dirt. Shovels flew like windmill blades to eject unwelcome intruders. Enough insect protein found its way into the sandbox so I didn’t have to worry a wayward amphibian would starve if it managed to fall or be placed inside that deep walled tire. I did intervene the year baby toads infested the yard.
Unbeknownst to us, the girls collected dozens of miniature toads and corralled them in their sandbox. These mottled -skinned creatures dug themselves shady holes and waited for flies and beetles to land within eating reach. At dusk, I discovered our daughters leaning over the tire to say good- night to their captives. This population was too great for the available resources so I intervened and made the girls relocate their livestock to a less restrictive environment. As they carried handfuls and pocketsful of toads to freedom, I heard them talking to them like I talk to my dogs. Gadfrey. Toads as pets in the sand box.
I suspect our grandkids will soon weary of bright colored sand and water tables. They live on ranches where discarded tractor tires abound. It won’t be long til our daughters join their tots to once again bake sandy confections and check for insects and toads. Heck, Grandma might have to see if she can still whip up one of those pies.