Friday, January 10, 2014

Frog Noses

“So what’s the prognosis?” Mark asked as we sat in his office on a recent Wednesday evening. “The frog noses are good”, I responded, searching his face for any sign the joke had hit its mark. If it had, his brief smile and slight nod did not indicate an appreciation for my humor. Since nothing had gone too far wrong, and what was damaged can be repaired, I could not help having some fun with my interrogator.

As we continued our conversation, I could not help looking back on my formative years in Bluff. In 1967, when Craig, Barry and I were nine, eight and seven, like the Beverly Hillbillies, the Simpsons loaded up the truck and moved to California . . . Livermore, no swimming pools, no movie stars, just bumpkins in the burbs.

Prior to the big move, the Simpson boys roamed the wilds of southeastern Utah. I do not remember what the Simpson girls, Susan and Cindy, did while the three of us explored the ancient ruins of Cottonwood Wash, forded the San Juan River, swam carelessly in the Pioneer Swimming Pond and scaled the pink sandstone cliffs which embraced our tiny community.

At the base of the Navajo Twins, where Twin Rocks Trading Post now stands, an artesian well flowed freely. Its elevated six-inch metal elbow poured forth a torrent of water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. People came from many miles to sate their thirst and fill containers with its clear, sweet bounty. Never considering the well might one day be contained, on blistering summer days Craig, Barry and I drank from and cooled ourselves at the spring. During winter we skated on its ever-expanding sheet of ice.

As a result of the well’s continuous flow, a large pond collected about a block south of the fountain. This is where, watching tadpoles turn into frogs; we had our first lesson in evolution. This is also where a bullfrog the size of a country ham lived. The croaker, which we named Elvis, had been severely mistreated. For some still unexplained reason, one of the locals had shot the amphibian in the face with a small caliber rifle. Surely expecting to terminate the creature altogether, the assailant had instead merely blown off its nose, leaving it very much alive.

Over time the wound healed and the frog persisted. A gaping hole, however, existed where its nose and mouth had been. Whenever we visited the pond to check on the ever-changing tadpoles, instead of avoiding us, the frog hopped in our direction. Maybe it thought we would put an end to its suffering, or maybe that we might lend a little compassion. We chose the latter.

Over the years I have often thought of that frog and how it survived in spite of extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Its strength was an inspiration, and its persistence taught me that things are never as bad as they seem. Yes, I assured Mark, the frog noses were encouraging.

With warm regards:
Steve, Barry, Priscilla and Danny; the team.

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