Thursday, July 16, 2015

mr. toad's wild ride

Tuesday night was an Edgar Allen Poe evening. 

Rain.  Thunder.  Lightning.  The very type of night Poe could immortalize -- and Edward Bulwer-Lytton could suck the life out of.

I was lying in bed reading David McCullough's biography of Harry Truman.  (Let me parenthetically add -- just in case you missed the punctuation -- it is a superb read.  And, at over 1000 pages, I will be reading superb prose for some time into the future.)

Young Harry Truman was just losing his shirt in a zinc mine as the First World War revved up.  McCullough had my full attention.  Until I heard a very distinct
gentle rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

I thought it odd.  After all, I live alone.  But the persistence was something more than the wind.  In fact, the wind had moved on hours before.  The courtyard was still.

My general life philosophy is that things unexplained should go ignored -- until they make their presence known once more.  And that is exactly what happened.

Seconds later came the same tapping.  The only thing separating my bedroom from the great outdoors is a screen.  When I looked up, nothing was there.  Except for the tapping.

I don't know what possessed me to grab the flashlight that stands guard each night on the stand next to my bed.  But I did.  Shining the light at the bottom of the screen door.

What I saw was intriguing.  A pair of beady eyes and what looked like a rodent nose.  (It is at this point that I will remind you I am devoid of visual depth perception.)  Whatever it was, it wanted in my bedroom. 

Curiosity about wildlife is one of my passions.  It almost always cancels out other concerns -- oh, like safety.  What struck me about the eyes is they did not scamper off (along with the creature's body) when I approached the screen door.  Maybe whatever it was had been blinded by my personality -- or the flashlight, which was far more likely.

The motion of opening the door swept the creature off the ledge.  Once I discovered where it had been deposited, I was surprised to find what I believed to be a cane toad.  That is him at the top of this essay.

He had no fear.  And it was a well-founded confidence.  If he was a cane toad, he had a great defense right on his skin.  A toxin known as bufotoxin.  The appearance of the word "toxin" twice in that sentence was exactly why I did not touch my Mr. Toad.

When threatened, the cane toad exudes additional bufotoxin in the form of a milky fluid.  Many a dog has ended up dead as the result of an encounter with one of these toads.

And some people, who unwittingly enter the Darwin Awards competition, will lick cane toads for the high caused by the toxin.  Those people are often referred to as corpses.

So, I let the toad go his own way.  Just as I once gave the crocodiles in my back yard space for their lives.

It just reminds me how kind Mexico is.  I don't need to go find wildlife; it comes knocking at my door.

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