As the evening’s campfire dies down to embers and coals, the boys are putting their gear together and pulling a twelve foot johnboat out of the truck-bed. Carefully, quietly as possible, we each step into the boat and take a seat, each man having his own job; oarsman, spotter, gigger, and bagman.
A few minutes later a spotlight cuts through the darkness and shines upon the weedy banks as we all look for the biggest small game a hunter might ever pursue in these parts; the North American Bullfrog. Mosquitoes and gnats swarm in the LED beam as tiny bluegill and minnows jump at the darting bugs on the surface. Some levity breaks our oddly serious mood as a sunfish jumps out of the water and right into the boat between an oarsman’s feet. The sprite is tossed out over the side and all eyes turn back to the job at hand, the big hunt. You’d think from the way we approach it we were parting the canes on the savannahs of Africa stalking a lion. But no, this is serious business indeed. On this night, we hunt the frog!
In the weeds and mud two beady eyes peer back as the spotlight fixes upon a large green croaker. Some of them are too small to bother with, but this one will do nicely. Steering us left, then right the oarsmen carefully bring us slowly straight in on our prey as the gigger squats in the bow of the boat, spear ready and straight. Just inches away he thrusts at the amphibian, jabbing one up against the bank and then down in the mossy weeds. Almost losing his balance in the boat the pulls up and hands his gig back as the second seater opens the cloth bag and pulls the frog off the spear. Another one is added to our take of delicacies.
Methodically we work our way around the shore, stopping to switch seats and jobs or maybe to apply a bit more bug dope in the hopes we can stay out just a bit longer. From one pond to another we portage the boat, four grown men and a four year old boy holding her aluminum sides while a worried mother leans on the truck taking pictures with her I-phone. I doubt the posts on her twitter account make much sense to anyone reading them at this hour of the night. We must look like a scene in some old World War Two commando movie; all these guys crowded into a little boat making its way through the cattails in the dark.
I’m not sure why we’re all so serious either. Truth be known, we’re having a ball doing this and, yes ladies, this is exactly the kind of thing men do just because they can and because women won’t understand it. I envy the red headed boy with us, my nephew, because I am sure that, in his mind, this is by far the coolest thing he has ever done. Oh the tales that will be told in his pre-school class on Monday!
But like all good things, our fun comes to an end long into the night. One sleepy head heads off with his mother, one man heads off to work, the cows won’t wait, and the other three of us are left with a pillow case full of frogs, a pair of tin snips and a lot of frog leg processing to do by the light of a Coleman lantern. If you think you've done everything fun there is to do in the outdoors, make sure you've crossed frog-gigging off your list!