A week later, I put two and two together. Apparently, the frogs did have some fun. There were tiny tadpoles darting in and out of our pond’s rocks; and, there seemed to be millions of them hanging tightly onto anything that was horizontal. With no frog parents in sight, I concluded that these were abandoned children! Talk about irresponsible amphibian behavior! Although, my husband Paul and I were impressed that the frogs bestowed upon us the gift of their young. But, how should we care for them? We didn’t have any fish in the pond, so we weren’t treating the water for fish-life. What did tadpoles need to grow up to be big, healthy frogs? We googled on the internet and found out what to do next. After buying water conditioning products, we only added treated water so the tadpoles would not die from chlorine poisoning. Next, we used an old, torn screen from one of our windows to place around the water pump so they wouldn’t get sucked in and recycled into something else on the food chain. We added romaine lettuce leaves. Our informative tadpole guide told us that they liked lettuce. We thought we were on a roll. Proud of ourselves, we stood next to the pond with hands on hips, watching the little guys swim back and forth from the big rock to the small rock near the front of the pond. A couple hundred other tadpoles seemed to lack ambition. They opted for just lazying about on the shallow end without making any waves. Maybe they were really busy eating the green shadow of algae at the pond’s bottom. We worried that the still tadpoles might not be as healthy as the swimming ones on the other side.
The worries continued. The next afternoon when adding more conditioned water to the pond which happened to be down a couple of inches due to hotter weather and evaporation, I wondered if the tadpoles were hiding under the rocks. Where did all those millions of little swimmers go? I saw some clinging to a couple of algae-tinted rocks, but where was the big gathering? Were they hiding or camouflaged? My eyes darted back and forth trying in vain to see some sign of life. Finally, I gave up and went inside. That evening I trekked back out to the pond hoping to see the magic of a pond resurrected with teeming life forms, reassuring me that we humans had taken the right precautions for the frogs’ babies. The aquatic spotlights featured even fewer tadpoles. My stomach tightened. Ok, were they being body-snatched? Would I awaken to find myself inside a science-fiction-like dream? Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” in reverse? Shaking my head and trying to clear my vision, I suddenly noticed a large, brown, roach-like waterbug crouched near the unsuspecting tadpoles. It sat motionless on a submerged, nearby rock. I had a funny feeling about this bug. Was it an alien in our underwater paradise? Without any time to kill, I pivoted and quickly sped inside to google myself into the world of waterbugs. Foe or Friend?? With our high-speed internet connection, in hardly any time at all, I found myself sullenly staring at a deadly creature nick-named “toe-biter”. It sucked the life force out of its prey. It resembled scary aliens I’d read about in sci-fi anthologies. It was the ENEMY! One of its favorite food items was tadpoles. It ranged all over North and South America. It flew, it swam, and it could even leave a human with a poisonous bite when cornered. These giant waterbugs could get as big as three inches in length. I noticed as I read on that I felt warmer. I could feel myself getting angry. Those poor, innocent tadpoles were the main course for lord-only-knows how many water-thugs. Justice needed to be served. But how?
After drafting my husband into my personal army of two, we headed outdoors in the dark, armed with a poled net and a long, sharp stick. We had a focused mission. Destroy all aquatic enemies! Regain enemy territory. Return it to the few, remaining tadpoles! Armed and dangerous, flashlight in hand, we readied for battle. The pond’s enemy seemed to have multiplied before our very eyes. Giant, menacing waterbugs were everywhere. On, under, and over rocks, the bugs fearlessly waited. We stood as one, gathering our military intelligence and a working battle strategy.
“Ok, you hold the flashlight, Paul. I’ll swoosh them out with the net. Then you smash them with the stick.”
“No, you hold the flashlight. I want to stab them with the stick in the water. Forget the clumsy net.”
We went back and forth. The battle was way-laid. Finally, we came to an armistice. I held the flashlight. Paul would do the smashing.
“Dang-it! I missed!” I could hear the frustration in Paul’s voice.
“All right, then. Let me have a crack at ‘em,” I volleyed back.
After several attempts at killing the giants, we still weren’t having any luck. Finally, I heard a deadly splash and a war hoop of delight. “Killed the sucker!” Paul sounded victorious.
I reached in with the net and retrieved the dead bug. It would be a specimen in a jar-memento of the battle effort, worthy of study later.
Genocide. Were we messing with Mother Nature? Well, we didn’t have to worry about wiping the giant waterbugs off the map. We were able to kill only a few. There were plenty more the following night. Armed and not-so-dangerous, we tried again. Feeling foolish, flashlights in hand, we wondered what the neighbors would think if we were caught red-handed in battle. Throwing caution to the wind, we just kept on plugging away with our guerilla tactics. We possessed a grim resolve, but the end was nowhere in sight. Eliminating those slippery, sneaky bugs was a lot harder than you could ever imagine. Finally, we shrugged and retreated to the house. Feeling defeated, we thought we had let the tadpoles down. In fact, we saw only a limited few that had survived the evil clutches of the toe-biters.
The next night, I didn’t have the heart to go out to stand by the pond. But, I did glance out the bedroom window, hoping to see the tadpoles reappear. Maybe, they had been safely hiding under some water plants. I sat in the window’s alcove dreaming of how they would continue to grow, in fact, evolve, back legs first, then the front legs. They would need air to breathe. Then, we’d see the transformation. There would be new-found frogs sitting on top of the rocks, jumping into the water by choice only. Mission accomplished! Rivet!!!
A splash in the corner of the pond distracted me from my nighttime reverie. I looked up. There was a large adult frog jumping deftly off a rock in the pond. It quickly surfaced. In its mouth was a three-inch waterbug. I looked again. Gulp. The bug disappeared into the frog’s mouth.
Back-up! The troops arrived just in the nick of time. Now we have a larger and fiercer army. “Colonel Frog at your command!” The Green Marines. Vindication comes in all sorts of packaging. It’s the Circle of Life.