Thursday, September 20, 2012

A toxicologist walks into a bar.

Yesterday a contractor--"Contractor Kyle"-- came over to discuss a project, and in order to expose a mystery pipe in the front yard I thoughtlessly thrust my bare hand into a little mound of firewood and rocks.  I tossed a few sticks and rocks aside and suddenly Contractor Kyle said, "Whoa, look at the size of that black widow!" I snatched my hand away--it had come within millimeters of a large black widow that had been sitting undisturbed in our front yard for the entire summer.  And no,  we didn't kill it.  I don't believe in killing spiders. The cute part of this story is that when I told Jon about it, he was actually upset about how close I came to being bitten.  You don't die of black widow bites, but you do suffer agonizing pain that can last up to fourteen hours. Or so I was told once by a toxicologist in a bar.

Now might be a good time to introduce the other, less lethal, fauna that has taken up residence on our property this summer.  First are the tree frogs.  Something was making an awful racket in one of our trees every night.  Jon said it was tree frogs and I didn't believe him, because I thought tree frogs were some sort of made up thing.  (Forgive me.  I grew up in a city in the northeast.  We didn't have frogs, or black widows, or copperheads or any of the other wild life with which Virginia teems. Or specialty light bulbs.)  But what do you know, they are tree frogs, and one night one of them clung to the glass pane of our back door as if he had been planning all summer to take a peek at us.

Then there's a family of lovely plump bunnies that have a burrow somewhere near the tree frogs' tree.  They don't seem to be very afraid of us.  I have been able to get quite close to them, as long as I don't make any sudden movements.  I wonder if the spirit of George told them that we are people who are kind to bunnies.  The dogs haven't made any effort to eat them.  Maybe living with a bunny in the house has taught them that this is one species they shouldn't kill?

Finally, there's Toady, who has moved into the front garden.  He is homely, but his personality is so charming, we are able to overlook his ugliness.  He first appeared early in the summer, when he hopped onto the front porch one evening.  We shooed him away because we didn't want the dogs to eat him, but after a few minutes he crept cautiously into the circle of light cast by the porch lamp and looked at us hopefully, as if he wanted to take part in the conversation.  No matter how many times we shooed him away, he came back, determined to spend time with us. Now, every night he is Jon's companion on the front porch for beer and cigarettes.  He enjoys sitting on the end of our push broom.  We were worried he would be killed during the derecho and some of the torrential rains we've had this summer.  We did find a dead toad in the driveway--Mrs. Toady, presumably, as Jon pronounced her too small to be our Toady.  And our Toady is definitely alive and well as of last night, and also considerably larger than he was earlier in the summer.  Our dogs appear to have no interest in eating a toad.

"Toady" is not a very imaginative name.  What do you think is an appropriate name for a thoughtful toad who enjoys porch lights, brooms, conversation, and cigarette smoke?


  1. Winston Churchill.

    And, really, I am perfectly fine with killing venomous spiders. They're just asking for it.

  2. I second Suburban on Winston Churchill. A fine, dignified name. Alfred Hitchcock would be my second choice.

  3. I don't why, but Wilford Brimley comes to mind. He's just someone you can imagine sitting on a front porch with.

  4. I'm not coming up with a name other than Cletus, but agree with Suburban Correspondent about the spiders.

    Maybe your dogs aren't hungry enough to eat the local wildlife. My starving (fat) cat is on the cricket diet.

  5. Holy crap--that is TOO close to a black widow spider.
    I adore the mental image of a man having a beer and smoke break every evening beside a friendly toad.

  6. Toads have some nasty flavoring on their skins which makes dogs foam at the mouth and vomit; so most dogs avoid them. No, really! So now that you've seen the elusive tree frog, perhaps you'll spot a jackalope! Be on the lookout.

    I applaud your restraint regarding the spider. If they want to live in a place my hands need to go, I declare eminent domain. Whoever pays the mortgage wins.

  7. Boy, Winston Churchill is really hard to beat --it just seems so right.

    I did not know you guys had Black Widow spiders in VA! I thought those were a southwestern spider. I don't mind spiders, but it's probably because we don't have any dangerous ones here --I'd want a Black Widow good and dead before I could move on to another task.

    I like tree frogs --they are much louder than they look. We've had a couple climb the siding of the house, and joked that they were the "elusive American Vinyl Siding frog" :-)

  8. I googled "toad names" and came up with Bogart and Trevor. I like both of these!

  9. Yeah, Winston is good. But when I think of toads, I think of Toad in Frog and Toad, and Toad seems like a perfectly good name for a toad. I wonder if Frog and Toad were the only frog and toad in Arnold Lobel universe.

    Arnold Lobel might also be a good name for a toad.

  10. Fran Lebowitz once said, “The great outdoors is the space between my front door and a cab.”

  11. Jabba.

    You could always put on your "Princes Leia Slave Girl" costume and dance for them.