By Richard Boughton
There are a lot of frogs in Bali. It’s the next thing to a biblical plague. Not that I have anything against frogs, or any intention of casting insult upon their kind. I employ the biblical reference only to convey the idea of a great multitude, and also to suggest that they may be falling from the sky.
There’s nothing wrong with falling from the sky either, if they prefer it. The point is that there are a lot of them, no matter where they come from – and there seem to be more than ever during this present rainy season.
I take this coincidence of frogs and rain to be pertinent as well, and both causative and complimentary in some essential way. It may be, in other words, that the rain causes these amphibians to spring forth in abundance at the proper season, like crocuses or chrysanthemums, providing a nurturing soil and a productive earth; or it may also be that they have actually been somehow seeded in the clouds and come pouring down admixed with the island’s famous torrents of rain.
In support of the latter theory I advance the notion that a significant portion of what hits my helmet whilst I’m riding in a rainstorm seems quite clearly of a heavier composition than mere water. There is the constant tapping sound that we associate with raindrops, and then there is the interspersed THUMP, which cannot be rain but must be a foreign object of some kind. A frog, perhaps.
Such happenings, though tending toward the extraordinary, are not unheard of. In 1873, for instance, Kansas City, Missouri, was deluged by frogs dropping from the heavens during a violent storm. Again, in July of 1901, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was pelted with a squall of frogs and toads. After these amphibian rains let up, a variety of frog species littered the earth, three inches deep and covering an area of more than four blocks.
The citizens of Naphlion, a city in southern Greece, were surprised one morning in May 1981 when they awoke to find small green frogs falling from the sky. Weighing just a few ounces each, the frogs landed in trees and plopped into the streets. The Hellenic National Meteorological Service surmised they had been picked by a strong wind. It must have been a very strong wind indeed, as the species of frog so fallen was native to North Africa.
The favourite explanation of science for the phenomenon is that of the freak tornado or typhoon, which, as we are told, whisks up all the frogs in one place and sets them down in quite another (preferring, apparently, to keep the community intact rather than scatter its members far and wide; and preferring also to transport frogs rather than parking meters, trash cans, tricycles or children). That this miraculous accident could have happened numerous times in disparate locales is surely as marvellous as the frogs themselves. Or, as my son, an adolescent at the time, once said, “When people hear about things that don’t make sense, they make up explanations just as dumb, and then straightaway forget it ever happened.” From the mouths of babes? Well, I reckon that’s the ultimate point of science here. When in doubt, blame it on a weather balloon, or some reasonable facsimile.
Perplexing as well is the fact that I often find these frogs, having once by whatever method descended or sprung forth, sitting on my front porch. I cannot for the life of me explain how they got there. Two steps must first be ascended to get from ground level to the front door. The height of the first step is one foot. The height of the second is 7 inches. Each frog I have found at the door has been no taller than a thimble. I cannot believe, and I do not believe, that such a diminutive creature could have leaped a full foot in the air, nor 7 inches either – and yet here the critter sits, 19 inches all told from the ground. It is quite impossible, you see, and leads naturally back to the theory of a decent from the sky.
I will say again that I have nothing whatsoever against frogs. Many are the boyhood days I can remember when my friends and I would chase and snatch frogs from the shallow waters of the high mountain lakes we so loved. Buckets of them we would collect, and salamanders and mud-dogs – just to see how many there were in our world – and then count them, and release them and watch them go. Strangely, they have all but disappeared from those lakes in the modern day. Scientists say it has something to do with climate change. For my own part, I suspect they were picked up by a freak storm and deposited here in Bali.
So it happens that I am always glad to see these old friends at my door, here on the other side of the world. If you ask me, these unassuming creatures have suffered unfairly ever since the times of scripture, wherein the Lord God Himself is recorded to have said: “I will smite your whole territory with frogs.” If He didn’t like them, why’d He make them in the first place?
No, as far I can see, they do no harm. I just wish they could be a bit less baffling in their ways.
Richard can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.