A frog for science or How to dash the hopes and dreams of a fifth-grader. October 6, 2011Posted by #4 in Everything but the kitchen sink, My attempt at humor.
Tags: Frog, Gigg, Number Three, Oklahoma, Pond, Reptiles and Amphibians, Shopping, Teacher
In fifth grade I had a science teacher named Mr. Fleming but he was really not my teacher. You see, my older brother, Number Three, was in Mr. Fleming’s class a few years before I was, and Mr. Fleming was his favorite teacher. Number Three told me lots of stories about Mr. Fleming and they had such an impression on me that when I finally entered fifth grade and scored Mr. Fleming as my science teacher, he was mine but not really. To this day I still consider Mr. Fleming my brothers favorite teacher; I just happened to be in his class.
Mr. Fleming was cool. He had one arm missing which made him even cooler because Mr. Fleming could do anything with only one arm. He could open tightly sealed jar lids, he could fish with a rod and reel and cast with an uncanny precision, he told stories in his class that made science fun and captivating. And one day he did the most coolest thing of all – he picked me to be the student honored with the task of bringing a frog to class the next day for dissection. He picked me! My brother’s favorite teacher picked me!
I was so swollen with pride and self-importance I almost got stuck in the door climbing on the bus to go home. Man the bus was slow that day. It was almost like the bus driver knew how important I was and the monumental task that lay before me so he purposely drove extra slow that day. It didn’t help that I had a mile walk from the bus-stop to my house either. How could time be so inconsiderate of one with so important a task? It just wasn’t right.
When I finally got home to our dairy farm nothing could detour me from my mission, not even lack of knowledge. I hadn’t a clue how to capture a frog for science, but Number Three did.
My brother took me down to the middle pond – which derived its name from the mathematical equation of being, out of the three ponds on our farm, in the middle – and proceeded to school me in the fine art of gigging. I was to learn the ancient trick of catching live frogs with a fishing pole. Taking a fishing pole, Number Three rigged it with a single gold hook on the end of the fishing line. Nothing else. At first this puzzled me, after all, even to catch a fish, a creature far inferior in brain power to the frog, you needed something on the hook. I was to learn that bait had nothing to do with the technique.
My brother proceeded to ease up to the weed lined edge of the pond and slowly started walking down the edge looking at where the mud met the water. He was looking for frogs. You see, when a frog is not in the water swimming around or making little frogs, which are sometimes known as tadpoles, they are sitting in the mud at the edge of the water. And they sit facing the water with their backs to the weeds or bank or trees or whatever you have that lines your particular pond. I guess they do this because in their tiny little frog brains they are thinking that they don’t need to watch their back because danger to them comes from the water, or they could just be thinking “bugs”. This is a fortuitous placement because it affords the “Gigg-er” (us) the chance to sneak up behind them. We still had to be careful because a frog has those rather large and hideously placed eyes that can see in 360 degrees and in 3D, so stealth is very important.
Finally my brother spotted a frog, which he communicated to me in stealth mode by whispering “there’s a frog”. We lowered ourselves to the ground and crept up behind the unsuspecting victim and Number Three demonstrated the gigging technique by easing the end of the fishing pole out over the head of the frog until the hook dangled just above those hideous eyes. When the frog didn’t move, the hook was lowered to dangle under the frogs chin and then – YANK! Number Three snapped the fishing pole up, driving the hook into the chin of the frog and presto! He was caught.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Every time I went fishing the frogs flew out of the weeds into the water before I ever even got close to the bank, so I believed one could not sneak up on a frog. This was power! This was hunting and fishing all at the same time. This would elevate me to hero status in Mr. Fleming’s science class.
Now that I knew the technique it was just a matter of time to find the perfect dissection specimen. I was on the hunt.
I don’t know how long we were on the pond gigging frogs but fortune was on our side that day. I had successfully and with great skill gigged a massive bull-frog. It was huge! bigger than a man’s fist. They would be erecting posters in my honor in the halls of Chouteau Elementary after this monster met its fate on the lab table of Mr. Fleming. I could not wait for the next day.
We ran into a slight problem of where to keep the giant frog until morning. We hunted all over the farm until we found an old 55 gallon drum. It was empty. So we put the monster bull-frog in the barrel and put a chunk of plywood on the top as a lid and weighed that down with a brick or a rock, I really don’t remember. Needless to say the dissection would be the most memorable ever in the history of Mr. Fleming’s science class. It could even possibly become the most honored and sought example of dissection in the entire field of biology! I don’t think I slept a wink.
I certainly don’t remember eating breakfast or taking a bath, or even getting dressed for school (although I am sure I did). All I could think about was that frog and the impact it would have on my fame. Number three and I rushed out of the house and ran to the 55 gallon drum.
The lid was knocked off and the barrel was empty.
My giant monster greatest frog in the whole history of science dissection was gone.
I think I actually cried.
I hunted poisonous snakes and turtles and birds and climbed trees and played with dead critters and chased cows and taunted death daily on the farm and there I stood, crying.
How could this happen? There was no way that frog could get out. Someone must have taken the lid off and let it go. Someone was a hideous evil diabolical person. No way that frog could get out on its own.
I had to get another frog. Devastated as I was I could not – could not – enter Mr. Fleming’s class without a frog for dissection. I would be expelled, shunned, laughed out of the community. I had to get another frog.
There was not much time because we still had to hoof it a mile up the road to the bus-stop, so Number Three and I ran back to the middle pond for another frog. Time was so short I was forced to take the first frog we could successfully gig. We got one.
It was the smallest frog in the whole pond.
It was the smallest frog on the whole farm that had three ponds: the big pond, the middle pond and the little pond. (we prided ourselves on our naming abilities)
It was the smallest frog in the entire state of Oklahoma.
I went to school that day in a pool of shame. I could look no one in the eye. I barely spoke above a whisper. I was humiliated.
When it came time for the dissection I was devoid of feelings and emotion, completely drained and despondent. I don’t even remember the procedure. Mr. Fleming was pleased to have a live frog and joyed in training his young students in the art of biological dissection, exploring the wonders of a working body.
All I know is the frog was so small you probably needed a microscope just to see its heart. I think I actually shrunk in size that day; must be why I missed reaching 6 feet in height by one inch as an adult.
No one in the class knew that day about the monster frog that got away. They reacted like all kids do when an animal is cut open and the insides explored – some were happy – some were sad – some were freaked out – and some were sadistically pleased. I couldn’t have cared less.
I loved Mr. Fleming, my brother’s favorite teacher, probably as much as my brother did. But I’ll never forget the day that I failed to gain prestige in his eyes by bringing in that massive herculean frog. For all I know – Mr. Fleming only remembers my brother out of all his many students. Certainly Mr. Fleming doesn’t remember the kid who brought the smallest frog in the state to his science class.
And I’ll never forget the bull-frog that got away. To this day it remains an unsolved crime, how that wood with the brick or rock or something, mysteriously got knocked off allowing the frog to get away. I don’t even know if it survived the escape. Maybe it was eaten by Bigfoot who happened to be prowling around our farm. But get away it did; crushing my dreams of becoming the dissection king of Chouteau Elementary and somebody in the eyes of Mr. Fleming, my brother’s favorite teacher.
© #4 / the-fourth-brother.com / 2011