Thursday, September 4, 2008


Copyright Ken Harris 2006

It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my brother-in-law Fritz’s fault. It was all my neighbor Bill Van Landingham’s fault.

Long, long and long ago, not back to Dinosaur Days but almost, in the early 1960s, Fritz and Ruth Heyser came up to visit us in Auburn, California. We were all visiting together very nicely. We hadn’t insulted each other hardly at all. Things would have passed uneventfully if Bill Van Landingam hadn t come by and asked us if we liked frogs legs. Fritz and I both agreed that we loved frogs legs.

Now, from the wisdom conveyed by forty years after the fact, I confess that I had never eaten frogs legs in my life. How would I know if I liked them or not? But Fritz said he loved frogs legs and I wasn’t going to look like a wuss in front of him.

Bill then got us to agree to go with him that night when it was good dark to go frogging. He said that there were ponds where he worked that hadn’t been frogged in years, and he was sure that we could fill up our bags with frogs legs and have them for breakfast. Bill worked at the DeWitt State Mental Hospital as an attendant and said that he had scouted the territory well.
Nothing to it, he said. We drive out there, go to the ponds, fill our bags with frogs legs and return home to a grateful female population who would then gladly fry them up. In butter, rolled in corn meal. We could have frogs legs, potatoes and coffee with brandy in it for breakfast.

Fritz and I must have had a lot beer to drink because this seemed like a good, sound idea.
So that s what we did. We drove out to part of a six-foot chain link fence topped off with three strands of barbed wire that was near the ponds. The barbed wire was strung on arms that were set inwards 30°. Wait a minute. I didn’t remember Bill saying anything about chain link fences and barbed wire.

No matter. We climbed over and made our way to the ponds. It was easy; even the part where we jumped over the three strands of barbed And the frogs were there all right, chuggarumming so loudly you could hear them a hundred yards away. We shined our flashlights on the pond and frog eyeballs lit the place up. The pond looked like a Christmas tree. We gigged frogs with our three pronged frog giggers, killing them, removing their legs and cramming them into burlap bags. We were knee deep in mud, sweaty and yucky with frog yuck, when Bill said, “We d better hurry. We’ll be in trouble if we re caught.”

We filled three burlap bags with frogs legs and made our way back to the fence. But the three-strand layer of barbed wire, now loomed over our heads and looked far more formidable. We thought about going to the main gate and telling them that we weren’t patients there at all and that we didn’t really belong in a mental hospital. But we thought maybe the people at the gate might disagree. They might think we were exactly where we belonged.

So we gave up on going out the easy way and threw our bags and our gear over the fence and then made our way over as well. I learned a lot from this expedition, mostly about things that portly gentlemen should not attempt.

But we returned with most of our clothes, skin and flesh, and lots of frogs legs. The women had given up on us and gone to bed, but we woke them up, masculine studs that we were. They agreed to cook them and help us eat them. But we had to clean them. I never think things all the way through. You don t just throw a frog in a pan skin and all. But we got them cleaned while the women argued about who had the stupidest husband.

The frogs legs were excellent. But the whole experience was yucky from beginning to end. Ever since then I have just bought chicken at the store like a sensible man.


helmswondermom said...

Hi, I came here by way of your niece's blog, and my husband and I surely did enjoy this entry! Glad you got home with your frog's legs, clothes and skin mostly intact.

Ken said...

Hi Lori,

Glad you enjoyed the post. I read some of your entries and appreciate your efforts at getting your mom's memories down on tape. My parents and in-laws are all dead now, but I got some stories out of them. It was like pulling teeth because they were so sure they had nothing interesting to say. But they were wrong.