Deer, bears, and chipmunks were excellent aspects of my summer camp experience. Then there was the frog relocation scheme. Sometimes – often – and I now realize that at these times we were probably supposed to be in the crafts A-frame or playing volleyball by the lake or rehearsing for the talent show – we would prowl the creek that flowed from Mosquito Lake, catching frogs. Catching frogs is hugely fun. Unless you are frogs.
We meant them no harm, and always released them. We just enjoyed the hunt, and pitting our amphibian-capture capabilities against their mammal-eluding capabilities. Sometimes amphibians won, sometimes mammals won.
Frogs have a tactic in which they leap off a bank (often with a charming croak or yelp), dart to mud at the bottom of the creek, and freeze in place, holding their breath. This can work well to prevent detection, especially if there is enough mud to bury the frog. In Mosquito Creek, there was often insufficient mud, and we would crouch on the banks, only a few feet from the frog, staring at it as it hunkered in plain view on the creek bottom. The frog would regard us from lovely gold-laced eyes, perhaps thinking itself triumphantly hidden.
Slowly, slowly, the frog hunter would lower a hand into the water, slowly so as not to alarm the frog, not to trigger its motion-detecting neurons, though still visible to it, and slowly slowly maneuver to be close enough to snatch it. Ha!
Then you have a frog, and after you have admired its beauty, what to do?
A pool in a stream is made more beautiful by a frog on its banks. Some pools had two or three frogs, riches indeed. It seemed to us that if a pool with one frog was good, and a pool with two or three frogs was great, a pool with, say, twelve frogs would be completely fabulous.*
We found the finest frog pool on the stream, and rearranged it to be even better, and then went up and down the stream capturing frogs and relocating them to the perfect pool. They would swim to the bottom and hide themselves and we would go off in search of more frogs.
We'd return, expecting to find the pool thickly jeweled with frogs all around its gorgeous banks. But no. Maybe they were still hiding. We would release our latest prisoners and try again.
But to our chagrin, all frogs immediately repatriated themselves, so we were never able to achieve our dream of a heavily befrogged pool. (I know. We were ten.)
Fortunately frogs weren't involved when we invented a new game, Army Corps of Engineers.
(*Or, as we eloquently phrased it, really neat.)