Saturday, September 29, 2012

Toad And Hoiman

A small-to-average size toad has made his appearance on our porch a few times lately. We had one around the iris bed a couple years ago; I don’t know if it’s the same one or not. I first saw him a couple weeks ago, sitting hard against the house by the hinge side of the door, when I went to take the dog out after dark. Actually, our little dachshund saw him first since she was ahead. I noticed her straining to look at something on that side without committing herself to stepping down from the doorway. Leaning out, I saw the object of her interest. I think it was her first time to see one.

As we stepped out, I tried to regulate the leash so she could sniff him, but not make a grab for him. Everything is a new toy to her, after all. After a couple initial sniffs, she decided to inform the neighborhood of his existence, so I called to my wife for her to see the dangerous game our fearless guard dog had cornered. After a few barks, I started telling her to hush (the dog, not my wife) and she began to settle down. Finally, she tried to make a grab for it (actually just a feign, I think) and the toad spun to face her like he was saying “bring it on, girl!” After a few more sniffs, I took the pooch off the porch to water the lawn. When we returned, he was still there and she sniffed at him a few more times.

We’ve seen him on the porch in various spots since then. It’s about a 12 inch jump up there, unless he uses our fancy cement-block step to do it in two smaller leaps. I’m surprised that he makes that journey, since he doesn’t know until he’s there whether danger awaits him or not. Being mentally lazy, I guess, we’ve taken to just calling him “Toad.” “He” could actually be a “toadette;” I’ve never bothered to learn if you can tell the difference by looking. Toad must be eating well, as he left a sort of organic calling card by the step.

Having him around has reminded me of another of his species that used to hang around the concrete patio outside the back door of the farm home where I was raised. That patio was originally a garage floor until the garage got to leaning toward Fisher’s. Rather than rebuild the garage, the folks decided to use the old floor for a patio. An old-fashioned green metal outdoor light, salvaged from Dad’s boyhood home, was mounted high on the wall above the back door, and there it remained until the back end of the house was demolished and rebuilt a few years after my father died. That light stayed on each night until the last family member was safe and secure within our country home. While it was on, the light attracted bugs of every description. Those bugs eventually attracted an average size toad, which had learned where life was good.

Once he got to be a regular, my sister and I named him “Hoiman,” faking the accent of one of New York City’s boroughs where “er” sounds are pronounced “oi” more often than not. I think Mom and Dad always called him “Herman,” not giving in to the silliness of their semi-adult children. He lived there on the patio during the night-time hours of several years and grew to be pretty good sized.

He had a fast tongue! Passing bugs, whether flying or pedestrian, seemed to magically disappear if they strayed too close to Hoiman. All you could see was a slight flinch of his head. One memorable exception was the evening that he leaned closer and closer to a huge passing night-crawler. After the flinch, he righted himself with about two inches of the big worm sticking out each side of his mouth. A little working of his jaws and those ends disappeared, too. He provided entertainment for us and our farm dogs, and we all tried to watch out for him.

Hoiman quit showing up during a prolonged drought one summer. We wondered if he might have succumbed to the heat, or maybe just headed to the hollow behind the farmhouse, seeking moisture. The sad answer came one day when I found a dusty, elongated toad-shaped piece of leather in the driveway where the front wheel of the car usually sat. Hoiman had apparently scrunched his heinie under the tire of the car one early morning, looking for shade and coolness. His hide already tight against the tire tread, there was no escape when the tire rolled backwards. I won’t go into details, but what remained would have been an uncut toad skin with nothing inside it. The dust and the hot sun turned his skin into rawhide in a single day and got rid of any remaining evidence.

I certainly hope that Toad doesn’t meet the same fate. © 2012


Linda said... my area, Montreal, many cats have met similar fates by going beneath cars to stay warm in cold temperatures. The car owner is oblivious to the fact that a cat is there, and when they start their car the cat ends up getting badly injured...if only that. Thanks for sharing your story.

Practical Parsimony said...

I saw a dog rug in a parking lot. Surprisingly, it remained there for months until it just disappeared little by little over the summer.

Pumice said...

I wonder if the mark of a good writer is being able to get people to read about something they would have never believed they would spend time reading about. Well done, and interesting.

Grace and peace.

HermitJim said...

It's pretty amazing where the toads come from, what they are after, and where they spend the rest of their time!

Nature gives us a lot to ponder, that's for sure!

Bob Mc said...

Most dogs won't grab a toad, and if they do, they will only do it once followed by a gagging fit.

Gorges Smythe said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Linda, despite the sad ending.

That's interesting and disgusting all at the same time, PP! ;-)

Are you saying my subject matter is boring, Pumice? :-)

Maybe we should do research on the secret life of toads, Jim! (US, not the danged government; they probably already HAVE!)

I know some are actually poisonous, Bob; I don't know about the common ones, I suspect not. I know they WILL pee on you if you get careless when handling them!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I love the toad story, but then again I love frogs and toads and other slimy things. We have a Mr. Slugly that used to visit each night last summer and always toads and tree frogs congregating around the garage and porch lights.

Gorges Smythe said...

Be careful where you step, Kathy!

Susie Swanson said...

I love the story.. I 've heard all my life if they pee on you , you will get worts.. Don't know haven't handled any of

Gorges Smythe said...

Well, Susie, I've heard that, too, but I've had them pee on me when I had to move them to safer spots, and I haven't gotten any warts from them yet. Of course I DID try to wash as soon as possible!