Enjoyable concert in a North Dakota pondI went for a horseback ride Sunday and ended up at a concert. That’s right, on a day that started out quite normal, with us putting sweet feed into large bowls to lure the horses into a corral, not wanting to chase them all over the pasture, we saddled up and headed south, riding into another unusually warm first day of April, with a brisk breeze at our backs.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
I went for a horseback ride Sunday and ended up at a concert.
That’s right, on a day that started out quite normal, with us putting sweet feed into large bowls to lure the horses into a corral, not wanting to chase them all over the pasture, we saddled up and headed south, riding into another unusually warm first day of April, with a brisk breeze at our backs.
From time to time, out of large clumps of hayfield grass, popped a hyper Jack rabbit or Fester the Pheasant, escaping with enough paranoia to make us feel like Attila and his favorite Hun rather than a mild-mannered cowboy writer and his girlfriend, which is sort of humiliating when someone so quickly assumes you to be evil without attempting to get to know you.
We crossed a prairie trail and came upon a small pond or “slough,” as they are referred to in North Dakota, filled with plenty of vegetation, mud hens, maybe a muskrat or two, some bugs, a worm and a choral group of northern leopard frogs belting out their favorite springtime tunes, as though they were being directed by Lawrence Welk and performing for his early Saturday evening national television audience.
The volume was excessive, the enthusiasm immeasurable and the overall performance profound, with those frogs having obviously put in some hours of practice, which is both good news and bad. Bad, in that, were anyone to live nearby, their chances of getting a good night’s sleep would be as likely as seeing a Super Bowl in Sentinel Butte, no oil trucks between here and Williston, tires changing themselves, Obama in Zap and groceries costing half as much by summer. But also good in that it’s apparent you can find good entertainment almost anywhere at any time.
Of course, northern leopard frogs are a species found throughout North Dakota in almost any body of water and their color may vary from green to gray and spots may or may not be present. Plus, as you probably know, they swim better than both Olympians Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz combined and can leap higher than you and me to avoid capture.
Meanwhile, they are one of the last amphibians to emerge from hibernation in the spring, eat insects, worms and other frogs, like to mate in small ponds and the females lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time, which has to be hell when it comes time to choose names, so don’t be surprised if they give a couple of the kids the same one. Plus, they can really liven up a western North Dakota slough.
Of course, another name for the northern leopard frog is the meadow frog, and during the summer you might run into them far away from water, at, for example, any location including the Roughrider Days parade, near the railroad tracks, or amongst the trucks and campers in the Walmart parking lot.
As amphibians, frogs are believed to have been the first vertebrates to leave the water and live successfully on land, approximately 360 million years ago, primary because there were no other vertebrates around to hunt them. But they still need water or at least a moist area to breed in because the eggs dry out easily and their skins do not keep all of the water in. Thus they spend most of their lives in the water and cannot maintain their own body temperature without using their environment. A hindrance that keeps them jailed to a smaller world and simultaneously can teach us a lesson.
You see, sometimes we can be a little bit small-minded. Or as Mao Tse Tung, the key political leader in China for much of the 20th Century said, “We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.”
Still, frogs have one advantage over us — they can eat what bugs them.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.