Saturday, April 2, 2011

Frog-a-Rama by Gary Moore


Should you be at a loose end one day, and looking for something to take away the boredom of modern day living, why not take a trip down to Frog-a-Rama - West Farmington's most popular nature reserve. There you can pass an entertaining afternoon dressed in wet weather clothing pushing frogs out of trees with a long stick. This exciting pastime has been in operation for a few years now, but the story of how it came to be is a curious one.

It all started when a colony of dancing tree frogs was discovered by Beryl Harris, a keen member
of many wildlife preservation societies. Up until that point it was thought that the West Farmington dancing tree frog was extinct. Beryl had been spending some time in the middle of West Farmington woods studying fox droppings when it had suddenly started to rain. She took shelter under a tree, and ten minutes later was surprised to feel the unmistakable sensation of a frog falling on her head. She looked up and saw that the branches of the tree that she was sheltering under was infested with dancing frogs. The overwhelming sense of joy that she felt as she was battered into unconsciousness by falling frogs can easily be imagined.

Beryl, together with other members of the local wildlife society made a study of the frogs. It was
found that the frogs fed on a diet of insects that were foolish enough to walk, crawl or fly past them, much like normal non-tree dwelling frogs. The colony that Beryl had discovered inhabited two adjacent trees. All of the female frogs lived in one tree, where they spent their time discussing the merits of different male frogs, while all of the males lived in the tree next door, where they spent their time talking about baseball and motorbikes. During dry periods the two genders kept apart, but when it rained the patter of raindrops caused all of the frogs to become agitated, and they would leap up and down in a frenzied amphibian dance. As the branches of the trees became wetter and more slippery, the occasional frog would miss its footing on the descending part of its leap and fall out of the tree. The unlucky ones hitting a few more branches on the way down. Once on the woodland floor, there would be an opportunity for both genders to meet with the production of tadpoles being the result. A short film was made of the spectacle and broadcast at 4 a.m. one Wednesday morning a few years ago. You may have seen it.

The study of the dancing tree frogs had been going for a year and a half when the great drought of
2004 started. This was bad news for frog watchers and amorous frogs alike. No rain meant no dancing, which meant no plummeting to the ground, which in turn meant no tadpoles. As the drought went on the watchers became more and more concerned. If it didn't rain soon the frogs were in danger of whithering away. Beryl and her wildlife group decided that something had to be done. It was obvious that a way had to be found to water the frogs, but as they all lived in trees twenty feet off the ground miles away from any mains water supply, it was not going to be easy to find a solution. The only semi-practical suggestion anyone could come up with was to use a fire truck, but unfortunately there was no access road into the woods for it to drive on.

As the hot dry days went on, Beryl and her group became more and more concerned fot the frog's welfare. By the middle of August with the weather forecast to remain the same for some time, panic had started to set in, and with no other viable alternative at hand it was decided to hack a road through the woods to the frog colony. Work began at once, and went on 24 hours a day under the broiling sun during the daytime, and under huge arc lamps at night. In a monumental feat of civic engineering the road was completed in just three days. With the asphalt barely dry a second-hand fire truck, purchased at considerable cost rolled along the road and pulled up by the trees containing the frogs. Hoses were unrolled, valves turned, and gallons of water were pumped into the air above the frog's habitat. A great cheer went up from the small crowd of road-workers and naturalists. Unfortunately, instead of dancing, all of the frogs remained stationary. After fifteen minutes it became apparent that they were not going to move. Beryl told the man who was spraying the water to direct the jet onto the frogs in order to encourage them to leave the trees. Although this had the effect of getting the frogs onto the floor, as soon as they hit the ground they scurried behind the tree trunks and hid from the water. There was good reason for this. If you cast your mind back to the last time that you were knocked out of a tree by a water cannon, you will recall that when you hit the floor, romance was not the first thing on your mind.

After half an hour, the fire truck had run out of water, and seizing their chance all of the frogs
climbed back into the trees. A second attempt was made later in the day with the same result. What had not been realized at the time was that the West Farmington dancing tree frogs danced due to a partial diet of the extremely rare Ohion woodland ant. This particular ant carried an acid in its body which when ingested caused the frogs to leap up and down when they came into contact with water. As the ant hills that supplied the frogs with this supplement to their diet had been buried under eight inches of tarmac when the road had been laid, it was unsurprising that the frogs no longer danced. Although unfortunately this fact was not known at the time.

Beryl and her group were faced with a problem. They realised that they could not blow the frogs out
of the trees with hoses, but would have to direct a fine spray overhead to simulate rain, and as the frogs inexplicably refused to dance they would have to be gently helped on their way. The best way to achieve this was by using a long stick with a soft tennis ball on the end to push the frogs off of the branches. As fire trucks and tennis balls cost a lot of money, it was decided to recoup the cost by opening the site up to the general public. Thus it was that Frog-a-Rama came to be.

Today you can not only push frogs out of trees while getting soaking wet in the process, but you
can also buy postcards and cuddly toy frogs at the gift shop, and have your photograph taken while holding a stick with a tennis ball on the end of it. All for a very reasonable fee.

Frog-a-Rama is just off East Main Street and is open all year round. Well worth a visit.

Gary Moore is a bewildered Englishman
living in France where he spends most of his time hanging radiators on walls and sticking copper pipes together. When not doing so this he spends his spare time writing satirical rubbish, and has been accidentally published by Charging Ram books in Canada. Frog-a-Rama is one of the short stories published in his recently released book "Churchmouse Tales" which is available in paper and Kindle version on Amazon. His second book "Auntie Vera and the search for Vivien Leigh's haircut" is due out in October.

Photograph by Adam Lawrence.
Sticker art by LEW.

"Horses" is latest single from the High Highs.

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