The Pond, 2013
I should stipulate that I don’t have a problem with frogs, squirrels, raccoons, birds, muskrats, rabbits, turtles and snakes that live in our yard, although I’m sure most of them would agree that we’ll get along better as long as we do so out of each others’ sight.
Nature’s been having something of a folly in our neighborhood lately. Some of it’s nothing short of majestic, as when a bald eagle lands in a tree in your front yard. Some of it’s a little scary, like when a coyote shows up at the light cast from a neighbor’s fire pit.
My concerns are more mundane. Takes the foxes, for example. The first ten years we were here it was a major event if we saw one. Now they show up most every day. Coming home from a dinner out one night last summer we came upon a half dozen or so fox kittens frolicking in the street, their mother standing guard at the corner to make sure no one ran them over. Just the other morning while we were sitting at the breakfast table we watched a fox pounce on a squirrel.
Little Foxes, 2013
Twice in the last several summers I’ve had to rescue the frogs that live in the little pond in our back yard from snakes. Both times I arrived on the scene just as the snake had attacked the frog. Both times the frog emerged alive and went on to croak another day.
The most recent slaying was last week. I came upon a young otherwise harmless water snake trying to swallow a frog about five times as large as his mouth. It was a classic standoff. The snake, which would have normally slithered into the bushes upon sensing my approach, was fully exposed and wouldn’t move lest he lose the frog. The frog didn’t have much say. His head was in the snake’s mouth.
I gave the snake a chance to let the frog go. But if you know snakes, you know there’s no talking to them. He wouldn’t let go. I had a shovel. The snake became history. Like the earlier encounter, as soon as I severed the snake’s neck, his mouth went slack, the frog jumped out and, shaking himself off, hopped away.
I was telling this story last week to a friend who is very religious. He sat quietly for a moment and then said, “So how’s that going, interrupting the Divine and all?”
Well, I thought, I saved the life of a frog. All things considered, I value any creature that helps keep the mosquito population under control more than I value a snake. (If the snake would work on some of the voles in the garden I might be willing to change his status.) And if we’re going to be all biblical about it, isn’t the snake the metaphor for all things evil?
That didn’t satisfy my friend. And I suppose I did interfere with the natural food chain and kill a creature that otherwise posed no harm to me.
For now, though, I’m still siding with the frog.