Michael Thomason

Michael Thomason

We finally got some late summer rain. Overnight, dormant grass jumped up green and lush. The rain revived not just the grass, but love bugs and flies and crickets and a myriad of other insects in numbers not seen since April.

But then the rain stopped and the heat returned, Indian Summer they call it. The grass faded as fast as it had flourished. Now, the native life is crawling and hopping and flying everywhere, looking for a drink. I was thinking along these lines as I repaired a water filter out back of our garden house. Setting low in the west, the sun glowed golden and beautiful through the trees. I wiped sweat from my forehead as I worked along in the fading light. I switched on a work light to see better. Every bug in Leon County came to watch.

A solemn brown gecko and a smiling green tree frog watched me from their perch on the cedar fence. I have seen them around for a while. They seem to know I mean them no harm. I talked to them as I worked and they pretended to listen. The frog and the gecko were having a banquet on all the bugs swarming around, drawn by my light. The thought came to me we all represented what they call a symbiotic relationship, helping one another keep nature in balance.

I had a PVC pipe sticking out of the ground nearby. This pipe was for backwash from the sand filter that cleaned the pool water. I don’t think it mattered much to the frog or gecko if the pool water was cleaned or not. But it mattered to humans and the filter was broken and the pool water would suffer, so we three critters were out back of the garden house visiting as I replaced the seals, fighting off or feeding on the swarm of flying insects attracted to my light.

I had caught a great huge turtle in the pool the week before, and deported him to the pond down below the house. In dry weather, every critter for half a mile around invites themselves to the pool. It’s a constant struggle to relocate visitors before meeting one underwater during a swim or having one hop on you as you approach.

I reassembled the filter apparatus and switched on the pump. Everything worked perfectly and I breathed a sigh of relief that all had gone well. It was mostly dark out now, pleasantly cool and dry. Fall was in the air. Under the work light, I gathered up tools and supplies to carry back inside the shed. In passing, I shined a flashlight down the backwash pipe to make sure it was clear of debris. It wasn’t. I was taken aback somewhat to see a bullfrog staring back up at me with wide unblinking eyes. He was trapped a foot down inside the pipe, treading water. He must have slipped in or dived in trying to get a drink and couldn’t get out. I talked kindly to him, sympathetic to his predicament. I put a long stick in the pipe, hoping he cold use it to climb out. But it poked him in the nose and he disappeared underwater farther down the pipe. It was time for Plan B.

I shut off the pool pump and set the rebuilt directional valve to backwash. Water from the pool pump would then run backwards through the filter sand and flush all the dirt, grime and debris out through the pipe sticking up from the ground; and hopefully the frog along with it. I intended to select the slowest RPM and let the water gently lift the bullfrog to safety. I didn’t want to unduly alarm, stress, or drown the lad. In the dark, my finger missed the low setting and set the pump to 3450 rpm instead. The results were dramatic. The pipe rumbled, rattled and shook as air pockets mixed with water pushed up hard against the stuck bullfrog. With a huge explosion of water and air, he shot from that pipe like a clown launched from a circus cannon. He flew twenty feet through the air, spinning like a frisbee. The smiling tree frog, solemn gecko and I watched the arc of the bullfrog’s flight in silent awe, silhouetted against the rising moon. He landed unharmed but for his pride, over the pasture fence down range. His mouth was full of moths and other flying insects gathered up while in low earth orbit. The frog swallowed, licked his lips and hopped off with the air of an amphibian that pulls off this kind of stunt all the time. He sure would have a story to tell the folks back home. Everybody said so. Near as I can tell.

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