Iowa Writes

JEAN SNODGRESS-WIEDENHEFT
From "The Way of the Frog"


It is a warm, wet September night. The rain has been misting for hours. Each droplet that lands near me sends gently expanding ripples against my skin as it merges with the water in the wetland. A single bullfrog is calling from the south, but it is not the noisy ones I need to watch out for. The two with territories on either side of me are silent. Breeding season is over.

Restless myself, I head north. The first bound takes me through bulrushes and cattails. The cord grass that brushes my skin is wet and coarse but it does not slow me. The stiff stalks of goldenrod are harder, my toes plant unevenly several times, but I have made this journey before and just up the hill there is better ground, soft swells of loamy soil covered with prairie grasses that compress under my body weight. The only thing left to traverse is the rough band of bitumen and rock, nothing the keratin on my foot pads can't handle. It will take only four leaps to clear, perhaps three if I take off from the right spot.

Driving, I swerve or stop for anything, not just the deer for their obvious damage potential, and the skunks for the potency of their musk, but the others: wooly bear caterpillars as they scramble steadily along; American toads as they laboriously walk one step at a time; turkey buzzards picking at previous road kill; possums, despite their short life expectancy and tendency to scurry erratically for no reason at all.

It is a warm, wet September night. The rain has been misting for hours. Each droplet that lands near me sends gently expanding ripples against my skin as it merges with the water in the wetland. A single bullfrog is calling from the south, but it is not the noisy ones I need to watch out for. The two with territories on either side of me are silent. Breeding season is over.

Restless myself, I head north. The first bound takes me through bulrushes and cattails. The cord grass that brushes my skin is wet and coarse but it does not slow me. The stiff stalks of goldenrod are harder, my toes plant unevenly several times, but I have made this journey before and just up the hill there is better ground, soft swells of loamy soil covered with prairie grasses that compress under my body weight. The only thing left to traverse is the rough band of bitumen and rock, nothing the keratin on my foot pads can't handle. It will take only four leaps to clear, perhaps three if I take off from the right spot.

Driving, I swerve or stop for anything, not just the deer for their obvious damage potential, and the skunks for the potency of their musk, but the others: wooly bear caterpillars as they scramble steadily along; American toads as they laboriously walk one step at a time; turkey buzzards picking at previous road kill; possums, despite their short life expectancy and tendency to scurry erratically for no reason at all.

But the northern leopard frog that arced across my headlight before encountering the front bumper of my '93 Toyota Corolla didn't stand a chance. Until then he had been a survivor. Many of the 3,000–6,5000 egg clutch laid by his mother early that April had succumbed to predators in the tadpole stage: grass pickerel, great blue herons, snapping turtles and bullfrogs. Of those that made it to adulthood, some already had become part of the food chain due to other predators: snakes, domestic cats, raccoons and bullfrogs.

When the leopard frog collided with my car, it went from being a thriving, integral part of the Lynch Wetland ecosystem, in southern Linn County, to joining a disturbing, ever expanding but little known statistic: frogs are dying, faster than can be explained, prevented or understood in many cases. Dozens of species have disappeared in recent years and scientists are predicting many more frogs will go the way of the dodo in the next 50 years.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JEAN SNODGRESS-WIEDENHEFT

Jean Snodgress-Wiedenheft is the land steward at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids.

"The Way of the Frog" appears in issue #13 of The Wapsipinicon Almanac. Since 1988 the almanac has been edited by Tim Fay and published at his Route 3 Press in rural Anamosa/Monticello. Each issue features a mix of fiction, reviews, essays, poetry, art and homey information, packaged in the format of a folksy, old-time almanac. Issue #14 is now on sale.

The Wapsipinicon Almanac

This page was first displayed
on January 13, 2008

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