I like to think of myself as a bit of an animal whisperer. You know – befriended by squirrels at the early age of 3 months when my Mum left me in my carriage in the backyard only to return and find three squirrels nuzzled up snoring beside me.
Whether squirrels, chipmunks, cats, dogs, birds, barracudas, deers, bunnies, foxes, bears or sea horses….just to name a few…they all want to hang out and swap stories with me. So this Sunday when I was exploring the banks of the great Kamperslut River, doing my “National Geographic” – get that amazing shot photo thing and hoping to spot the neon blue bellied salamander, the harmless but hissy Hognose snake, or the infamous northern backwoods leopard frog – I was stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the cry. It sounded like a waling baby – a sort of nasal “waaaaa” that lasted for about two to five seconds; and with that recognition I instantly knew the ever-illustrious, exceptionally rare, enigmatically noble Bufu Woodhousii Fowler Toad was near. I told the wind to shhh. My toes gripped the sandy bank while I waited breathless for him to reveal his omnipresence. The grass waved and I saw him…a large, dusty brown lardaceous toad with a light stripe down the middle of his back with three or more warty bulbous bumps and a pristine white belly. “Waaaaaa” I froze in utter disbelief. He was lurking and taunting me with his childish wail. Seconds felt like a lifetime and then he made his move – a leap of faith – 7 inches towards my hot little hand. Gotcha Fatty! I was gentle but his force was mighty, his tongue whipped my taut grip as he writhed and wiggled in my palm before peeing on me. Oh the horror. I snapped his malicious little mug balancing Mr. Fowler in one hand, my camera in the next whilst tippy-toeing in bare feet on a 45 degree hillside incline. You know what happens next isn’t good…
It happened in slow mo…Mr. Fowler turned to me and gave me the webbed finger as he launched into space – amphibian feet sprawled in all directions – while my tiny toes lost their grip and left this earth sliding downward into extremely treacherous terrain teeming with jagged-edged Sumac branches. I came to a sudden stop…only because a 7 inch branch had jammed its way into my shin.
It’s a weird sensation seeing a tree branch in your leg. In an instant you ponder hmmm…shall I pull it out? Shall I scream? Where’s the toad? Perhaps I will barf? Faint? Panic? I decided to panic and screamed for my friend who was leisurely soaking in the rapids of the river.
Meet Melissa Barron – not only smart and pretty but now a full-fledged heroine. Within seconds she rappelled the rocky shoreline to my rescue bravely holding back her vomit upon setting eyes on my wound. Strong bodied and minded she threw me over her shoulder hauling my ass over 50 feet of hilly knolls up to the deck to access the trauma. The blood was gushing; squirrels were running around frantically, I told her to get it out! She ran inside to get tweezers and came back with a paring knife and whisky. Seriously? Let’s not be hasty… and in a flash of the metal on the edge of a knife she realized if she accidently killed me she’d never get invited back. So off to Huntsville Hospital we went.
Upon arriving I had to take a number even before seeing triage. Apparently Sunday’s are “chain saw massacre days” which take priority over limbs in limbs. Forever later… I was seen and sequestered to the waiting chamber where a motley crew of injured and their care givers sat in the dark watching Caddy Shack. There was Ben, the young, handsome, sensitive, lumberjack-meets-mechanic prince who got us lattes from the machine in the lobby. The sprite 99 year old Mr. Gibson, who’s much younger 88 yr old wife had fallen and broken her rib. Dick and Dan – brother’s who’s Mom came in after hitting her head and was MIA (she was later found on another floor). There was Candy (who Ben instantly fell in love with), the high schooler wannabe veterinarian with a bee sting on her bum, Max with the cool hat and Cancun bracelets who had slept walked off a balcony and broken both his heels; and of course Melissa, my patient friend who insisted we play over a dozen rounds of the alphabet game to pass time – you know name things that start with A – Z…. And just as the Gopher blew up the golf course – I was called in. To make an even longer story short – 3 more hours later (after said branch had been in my leg for 4 hrs) – I was whisked off by the funky purple scrub nurse Kiki who told me how she moved to Huntsville for love and prepped me for branch removal by the petite but 9 and a half month pregnant doc Kelly McDonald – who when asked if I wanted freezing and I said no…she highly recommended it…cause it was gonna hurt like a mudder frucker.
Yes there was pain, but there was also relief. Yes there were tears, but there was also a heck of a lotta laughter. There was patience galore and patients galore who had it way worse, whom I felt empathy for and gratefulness for my minor misery in comparison. There was true friendship (thanks Melissa) and new friends, as well as awesome sauce nurses and doctors who didn’t make fun of me for impaling myself while chasing a toad.
And there was a lesson – I needed to learn. Don’t mess with the freedom of those who don’t necessarily want to be picked up, held and adored for the sake of a human photo opp. Toad karma will get you every time. I’ve got the scar to prove it.
Legal: Some descriptions were slighted embellished for literary license….duh.