When we moved from California to Arkansas in 1993, we bought a house a few doors down and across the street (#899) from where we live now (#906). It's a very typical middle class neighborhood, with ordinary folks like us.
Arkansas is different from California. People here talk with an accent but tell me that I have one. Huh? Not me. There are more trees in the county where I live than I'd ever seen in the whole state of California. Okay. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little. And critters... lots of critters... deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds large and small, coyotes, foxes, skunks, turtles, snakes, frogs, armadillos... you name it, it's here.
So shortly after we moved into the house at #899, we settled into bed for the night. It was a quiet cool spring night and we had our bedroom window open a little for some fresh air. Just as we dozed off, we heard this loud sort of scream coming from somewhere outside.
"What the hell was that?" I asked, as if Tom would actually know.
"I don't know," he replied, "it sounded like someone's baby crying maybe."
It was quiet for a couple of minutes, then we heard it again... that scream.
"What is that!!??" I said. "It sounds like something coming from the yard behind us."
Tom got up and went to the window. "I don't see anything. No lights on anywhere." He came back to bed and just as he settled back in, we heard the scream again. Then just a few seconds later, again...then again...and again.
Tom got out of bed again, retrieved a flashlight from the laundry room, put on a pair of shorts and headed out the back door in our bedroom to the back yard.
As he headed out off the deck and onto the grass, the screaming stopped, but a few seconds later started again.
I was nervous. I didn't know what I expected Tom to find. Maybe it was a child or dog or cat in distress.
As Tom came back through the back door, I asked, "Did you find it? What was it?"
"You won't believe it," he said. "It's a little, tiny frog."
"What?? A frog?? That wasn't a croak! That was a scream!" I said.
"Some kinda weird frog, but it was definitely a frog. I saw him." And Tom was right.
We have become quite accustomed to the "screams" of the Eastern Narrow Mouthed Toad. They are little suckers, only about 1-1/2-inches long, which makes it easy for them to hide in grass and debris near wetlands.
We don't live in a swamp or wetland, but standing water in Arkansas during the spring rainy season is not uncommon, even in developed neighborhoods such as ours.
We purposely attract critters to our yard. We hang corn for the squirrels, a seed feeder for the numerous species of birds, and we throw out lettuce and other enticing scraps for the rabbits. However, with the pond we put in a couple of years ago has apparently charmed our friend the Eastern Narrow Mouthed Toad. This is what we hear every evening....for months. And it really IS this loud. These little suckers can scream!
One toad took up residence in and around our pond last spring and summer without incident. Not so this year. Two toads have enjoyed the wetlands environment we've created. Two toads...meaning a male and female...also meaning they copulated, bred, procreated without the benefit of legal marriage.
Just before she left, Karen uttered a civil sentence..."You have tadpoles in the pond."
Ya think??!!! This rock is barely submerged below the water surface and many of the little guys have congregated there, but there are many more swimming around freely in the pond. Tadpoles...polliwogs...baby frogs...whatever you want to call 'em...we got 'em.
Barring hungry birds and the neighbor's cat, I think we will have an abundance of Eastern Narrow Mouthed Toads next spring to serenade the entire neighborhood, but they will soon vacate the pond for the damp soil and grass where they can hide undetected and thrive on the many ants that inhabit our yard. At the very same time, Tom will begin the Arkansas yard ritual...the weekly lawn mowing and leaf mulching and the accumulation of the mulching bag clippings for yard waste collection.
This cannot end well. Nothing will escape the grass cutting, leaf mulching blades of the predatory mower. The mulching bag will gather the shredded fragments of everything in its wake, perhaps mid-scream. It's a jungle out there.