Hunting pollywogs

Some people call them tadpoles and I don’t think you really hunt them either. When I was little we still lived on the farm, all you had to do to find tadpoles was go to any reservoir and watch along the edges of the water in the spring of the year. I remember one time in particular that my nephew and I went tadpole hunting and the results of same.

My oldest sister’s son was 2 1/2 years older than I was. He had contracted scarlet fever in his infancy and almost died. He came out of that illness mentally disabled. He, Billy, was probably 7 which made me somewhere between 4 and 5. Billy, his mother and father were Sunday visitors so the adults were busy visiting and not too interested in what Billy and I were up to.

That was probably why we managed to go to the cellar and help ourselves to two one gallon fruit jars. Fruit jars in hand, we trailed across the farm yard to the barn and corrals and past, down over the bank to the stock reservoir and there we found the cow tracks full of wiggly little tadpoles. A child’s paradise.
It wasn’t long until our jars were black with tadpoles. And, we heard our mothers’ faint yell so we headed back to the house carrying our jars full of tadpoles. As we came in sight, they yelled at us to hurry up — dinner was ready. They went back in the house so we got all the way into the kitchen with our jars full of tadpoles before they saw what we had. Something was said about those “disgusting things” being in the kitchen.

In our kitchen, we had two cupboards that stored dishes and utensils and bins for flour and sugar and a work space. Right beside one of those was the wash stand. My brother-in-law took Billy’s jar and set it on the counter and turned to help Billy clean up for dinner. At his very best times, Billy had an aversion to clean and to water. This was a worst time. He wanted to watch the “pollywogs” and tell how he caught them.

Suddenly, Billy made a dive to get away. His father grabbed for him and over went the jar of tadpoles spilling all across the floor. Stepping to grab anything to catch water or jar or, heaven forbid, a hand full of tadpoles was a disaster.

Everyone was yelling to “get this;” “hand me that;” “don’t step there!” I heard someone say, “Get that other jar out of here before someone upsets it!”

That was my cue to leave with the jar. It was also a very long trip to the reservoir and back so by the time I returned, the mess was cleaned up, Dad and my brother-in-law were seated at the table, Mom was putting warmed over food out and my sister had Billy on the back porch with a bar of soap telling him to never use “that word” again.

Tempers had flared and cooled. Food was eaten and everyone felt better. Before the day ended there were a few smiles over who did what. Billy and I were told to not bring tadpoles into the house again.
Better yet, leave them in the pond so they could turn into frogs like they were supposed to.

Guest columnist Betty Dygert is a Buffalo resident and a member of the Sheridan Senior Center’s Family Caregiver Support Group. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.­

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