The predawn sky turned an inky purple over the Cascade Mountains. Fading stars made way for the approaching sun. Remnants of summer heat radiated from the driveway. A bird called from a nearby tree. The rest of the neighborhood slumbered.
Backing the car out of the driveway, I turned on the headlights. Yawning, I drove down our small street.
In the middle of the crosswalk stood a giant green lizard. I slammed on the brakes. The lizard, over a foot long, lost a good portion of its tail. I assume it outgrew its former owners and this painful lesson occurred once released into the wild.
The lizard stood transfixed by the headlights.
Turning off my headlights, the spell broke. The lizard walked into the lush, gated development across the street. We never met again. Since the advent of Richard’s mole relocation program in that neighborhood, I am certain there was plenty for the lizard to eat besides bugs and the occasional garden slug.
Returning home that afternoon, Bunny stood at the end of her driveway waving at me, her long blond hair swept back into a ponytail. She walked up our driveway as I parked the car.
“Fannie, I want to talk to you and Richard about the peanuts,” Bunny said with her refined Texas ascent looking less than pleased, and leaning down to meet my gaze.
“What’s wrong with the peanuts?” I asked searching her face for a clue.
“Two things, the bluejays and squirrels are using our yard as their personal peanut stash. And we now have a peanut crop growing in our lawn.”
“Bunny, we had no idea,” I said.
As I spoke Bob, the resident raccoon—recognizable by the loss of his tail, waddled from George and Bunny’s side yard, across the street and into our yard. He paused long enough to look at us then continued on.
“And that’s another thing. Since you started feeding the birds and squirrels peanuts, that raccoon must have gained twenty pounds. I’d say he was forty pounds if he weighs an ounce.”
“This is the first time I’ve seen him in a while,” I said, “I’ll talk to Richard.”
Richard stood looking out the sliding glass door when I walked in. Bob climbed the post of the bird feeder. Reaching the miniature log cabin on top, he raised the lid. Pulling himself to the top he rested his hind end against the lid. With the leisure of an aristocrat, he reached into the feeder for a peanut. Cracking the shell, he extracted the nut with his tongue.
He leaned farther into the lid. The feeder made a loud popping noise. Startled, Bob leaned forward on the feeder. It popped again and listed forward. He leaned back. The feeder let loose. They tumbled to the ground landing with a loud thud. Bob rolled into the nearby tree before coming to a stop. He shook his head and wobbled a bit before racing up the tree.
“Well, I guess we should stop putting out peanuts,” Richard said shaking his head.
“Richard, about that, Bunny caught me in the driveway and asked we stop. She’s growing her version of a cash crop in their lawn.”
“I guess it’s back to sunflower seeds,” Richard said looking at the ruined feeder.
“I’m sure you can repair it, but I doubt it‘ll withstand another of Bob’s assaults. Good thing he’s not fond of sunflower seeds.”
The dense canopy of cedars, hemlock and Douglas Fir filtered the late afternoon sunlight. Richard picked up the ruined feeder. Turning it over a smile spread across his face.
“Fannie, it’s not as bad as it looks,” he said holding it up for me to inspect. “I just need to reinforce it a little and install a small platform on the post and we’re back in business. Oh and you can tell Bunny for me, no more peanuts.”
“Her lawn will be thrilled, I’m sure,” I said with a smile.
As the sun set, a frog croaked somewhere in the distance. Soon it was joined by other frogs with crickets filling in the void. A crane fly flew over the herb garden landing in a spider’s web hanging from a nearby branch.
“Richard,” I said watching the fly struggle in the web from the vantage point of the patio table, “wouldn’t it be nice to have some tree frogs move back in? They used to hang out on the slider when Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl lived here.”
“Wouldn’t that be fun,” Richard said leaning back in the patio chair listening to the frog chorus. “We could have our own personal serenade.”
“I saw some frog huts at the hardware store the other day. Do you want to pick up a couple and see if we can encourage them to move back in?”
Without knowing anything about tree frogs I purchased two frog huts and placed them in the garden.
One week later, Richard and I weeded the garden.
“I’m going to check to see how our frog huts are doing, do you want to take a look?” I asked walking over to the nearest hut.
Lifting the hut revealed seven large brown slugs and two small banana slugs consulting with a spider on interior design. Richard peered over my shoulder.
Dropping the hut back into place I said, “Well that explains why the Dahlias aren’t growing.”
“Do you want to put out the slug bait and beer, or should I?” Richard asked.
“It was my idea, I’ll do it.”
“What do you want to do about the frog huts?” Richard asked, “They’re gonna continue encouraging the slug community.”
“I’ll clean them out and move them to a drier location.”
“What about the frogs?”
“Maybe I should do a little research before we try anything else,” I said returning to the weeds.
“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I ordered a couple of those outdoor storage benches that double as extra seating, they should be here next week,” Richard said, “I thought it would be easier to store some of the tools in them rather than lug them from the garage.”
Three days later UPS delivered the storage benches.
“You know, Fannie, we’ve got so much extra room, what do you think about storing the bird seed out here in one of the benches?” Richard asked.
“Works for me.”
Richard purchased two ten pound bags of black seed and a twenty pound bag of wild bird seed. Putting them into the storage bench left just enough room for ten packages of peanut butter suet.
He filled the two new feeders and our original feeders to overflowing. Then stood back to admire his handy work.
“This’ll work great,” he said taking the bags back to the storage bench.
That evening, while sitting in the family room enjoying some iced tea we heard the croak of a frog. We looked at each other. In unison we walked over to the slider and looked outside.
“Do you see anything?” I asked squinting.
“No, but I can sure hear it. It sounds like it’s on top of us.”
Richard opened the door. The sound stopped. We scanned the door, the wall, then fanned out to the patio, no frog.
Heading back toward the house I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. On the corner of the storage bench with the bird feed, a tiny frog wedged itself between the top lip of the bench and the cushion, almost matching the cushion in color and striping.
“Richard, look, it’s sitting right there,” I said pointing, my hands shaking with excitement almost spilling my iced tea.
“Well that’s going to be a bit of a problem don’t you think?” Richard asked looking at our newest resident.
“What do you mean?” I asked, “we’ve got our frog just like we wanted.”
“Fannie, we’ll have to check the cushion before anyone can sit on it or they will be wearing the frog.”
“I didn’t think of that.” Laughing I said, “Can you imagine the apoplectic fit my mother or aunt would have over that?”
“How do you think the frog would feel?”
“What do you want to name it?” I asked looking at the frog.
“Is it a boy or a girl,” Richard asked.
“Do you know how to tell?”
“It could work like a chicken and we could just flip it over and take a peak,” Richard said smiling his horns showing through his thick brown hair.
“Like a chicken,” I said crossing my arms. “Go ahead Mr. Chicken Sexer, pick it up and have a look.”
“I think you should do it, you’re the one who gave the chicken half of the birds and the bees conversation to the waitress at the diner. I’ll be your moral support.”
Laughing I said, “I respect its privacy. Beside, you know if I pick it up to take a look, one of the neighbors will happen to drop by and catch me.”
“I’d like to see you explain your way out of that one,” Richard said laughing. “I can see it now, by the time you finished you’d have explained which came first, the chicken or the chicken sexer.”
“Perhaps it’s better if we don’t name it,” I said shaking my head and laughing, “With the way my luck is going naming things, it might just live longer without one.”
Richard lifted his glass and said, “Viva la tree frog.”
“Viva la tree frog,” I said tapping my glass with his.