“I see one!” Shan shouts leaning over the edge of the canoe, “Get em!”
I peer over the side. I see the frog extend his legs. He dives, disappearing into the murky dugout water. The canoe tilts, threatening to spill us out. We shift our weight back to center.
“How many do we have?” I ask.
She lifts the lid off the ice-cream pail, and peeks inside, “I don’t know, about half a bucket.” Shan looks up with raised eyebrows. “Is that enough?”
I consider the question with all the seriousness of a father, on the throne, doing his morning business. “Let’s see if we can catch some more.” Our chores are done, nothing but time.
We are drifting in the middle of our largest dugout. The sun sits high in the sky, the fresh green leaves of the poplar trees waltz with the breeze. The edge of the pond holds the footsteps of countless cows, intermingled with their splatted cow patties. The flies buzz around trying to lick our arms and faces. We wait, still and silent. We watch for a ripple in the water to show us our prey. The singing of the frogs begins again, rhythmic and consistent. I am eleven, and Shan is eight, our older sister is hanging out with friends today. We are predators. No sharp teeth, no blasting gun, just a big old net with no holes in it.
I see a toady face with dangling front legs emerge at the surface. I swoop under him with the net deep into the murk, and come up with three frogs.
“Whoo hoo!” I squeal, “Get the pail! Get the pail.” I hold the net high watching the frogs struggle to escape.
She pulls the lid part ways off the bucket, and one of the captured jumps out.
I empty mine into the pail. The liberated frog leaps around the canoe, bouncing across our bare legs with his sharp toady fingers. We scramble after him. The canoe rocks violently in the water. It’s a bit cool for a swim.
“Hey! What’s going on?” Gramps shouts from across the garden fence. He has his hands on his hips. He’s wearing the pooh-pooh face, “For Pete’s sake, You girls are going to tip over. I don’t feel like going for a swim today.” He was supervising us— kind of.
“You won’t have to. We’ll be careful,” I holler back. “A frog got loose,” I explain, “we were catching it.”
I give him the peace sign, “Besides, we can swim.” As the words exit my mouth our escapee leaps over the side, plopping into the water. I sag. Well, that’s disappointing. We lost a frog, and I have no idea about Pete or his sake?
Gramps shakes his head.
It’s Shan’s turn to handle the net. She catches four frogs in one scoop— Queen of the Amphibians.
A couple cows come to water and watch us with interest. We watch them watch us. The big bull pushes his way into the middle of the bunch. He sinks up to his knees. His nut sack drags in the mud. We laugh.
In about twenty minutes, we fill our bucket to the top with frogs.
“Now what?” Asks Shan.
We eye the bucket, it’s a whole lotta frogs. The fun is gone.
”We should let them go.” I suggest, feeling sorry for the ones on the bottom. I clearly recall the other day, when there were cousins over visiting, and we played sandwich. I was the bottom slice of bread. It was hard to breath.
We took the lid off, and tipped them out with care. We watched the diving amphibians disappear, off to claim their places in the frog kingdom.
When Mom arrives home from work, she looks at the list of chores on the counter. They are all crossed off, “I see you got your chores done, what else did you do today?”
I grin, “We caught a gallon bucket of frogs, with a net, in the canoe.”
Shan’s eyes sparkle, “We could have caught more. There were so many.”
Mom shook her head, and scrunches up her face, “Gross! Did you have fun?”
“It was so much fun,” I say with all the energy of a bubbling soda pop, “we almost tipped over the canoe, and Gramps gave us the grumpy face.”
“Yeah, and a frog escaped, and I caught four frogs at once!” Adds Shan enthusiastically.
I grimace, and pretend to wipe gook of my hands, “Yeah, Queen of the slime.”
Shan pushes me, “Am not!”
We both giggle.
Mom smiles, “What did you do with the frogs.”
“We let them go,” I said, scarfing down a cookie, “It wasn’t fun anymore once the bucket was full.”
Life is like that— the fun is in the doing.