It was a warm night with fire flies lighting like stars, and they swirled around me, waist high, as if I were a giant. Dad came outside and asked me if I wanted to gig some frogs. I said I did, even though I didn’t know what gigging was.
Ransom’s pond was a huge oval still as glass, and there was a worn path along the waterline where a fringe of grass harbored mosquitoes. Without a word Dad handed me a contraption he called a “gig.” At the end of a broom handle was a three-pronged metal tool fastened to the end like a miniature pitchfork. He whispered that I was to hold it with both hands, like so, and demonstrated.
I stood with knees bent and both arms high on the broomstick like some warrior, the gig pointing straight down, while Dad dragged the flashlight’s beam along the pond’s white bottom.
Dad caught sight of a frog, and with a stern look directed my gaze to where the beam had frozen the poor creature. I crept forward on the balls of my feet, following him to where the frog finally settled.
“Aim,” he whispered. I crouched, took position, and pointed the gig at what I estimated to be the dead center of its back.
“Now!” he ordered.
I plunged the stick down, but in that instant time seemed to stop and my second’s hesitation was enough to allow the frog to spring away in a blur of shimmering water.
“You missed it!”
We trudged around the pond a third time, but I knew that Dad would take over and I wouldn’t get another chance. Over the next thirty minutes he got four more big ones, and we were still walking around the pond and I was feeling bad, wondering whether, had I been a boy, I would have cut out all second thoughts and plunged when he’d told me to. Plunge, gig, shoot, throw. He had tried to teach me, but I couldn’t do any of them.
But now, with the food safely in our sack, Dad didn’t seem annoyed any longer. He turned and smiled, “We’ll get a couple more and go home.”
A plate of frog’s legs ready for a hot pan of melted butter and garlic.
According to Dad the frogs had to be skinned alive. But after watching him skin the first two, I had to go into the house. I couldn’t watch that hasty slice across the frog’s middle, then clear around its back like halving a peach, and how Dad’s strong hands with the sprouting black hairs, pulled the skin down in one great coat. The frogs twitched the whole time, until their lower halves hung denuded and gray.
“Look at that!” he exclaimed, coming into the kitchen and holding the bowl full of legs for me to see. It looked like a small pile of meat for all that effort, but Dad was excited.
He moved quickly, salting and peppering before tossing the legs into a swirling pan of butter and garlic. Minutes later we sat across from one another at the kitchen table scoffing them down.
“The biggest frogs are at Sunshine Errera’s out on the Pike,” Dad said between bites.
“Why didn’t we go there?” I asked, making conversation.
He clicked his tongue and shook his head, “God Gail, you are never satisfied.” I felt shame, as if I were being greedy, when I only meant to make conversation.
“These are good, aren’t they?” he said after a minute.
“They really are, Dad.”
He smiled, pleased.