WHAT'S THAT SOUND?
By ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
April 3, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
This is bigger than that G20 party, the cops versus protesters twitter street battles, President Obama's European tour, any state's budget and even The Final Four.
Gazillions of frogs are celebrating springtime. Where the hell is the mainstream media?
It seems there are lots of folks who don't hang out with frogs very often. They are much the worse for this lapse. I learned this over the past week while chasing down scattered reports of high-pitched sounds in wooded areas from Ridgefield, CT to North Providence, RI, Banff, British Columbia, Tampa, FL and a few other places in between.
"It's a big story - get six minutes on CNN like you did for that other guy," I told my friend Mike The Scungilli of Fairfield County, CT, who supposedly runs a public relations agency in his spare time.
I had begun to hear hints of a chorus in the woods by a pond.
"Are you drunk?"
"No, but I'm a thirsty. And there's a client who will pay big time."
There really was no client. This was an unspoken understanding. We started talking about other stuff including some interesting criminal activities in the "scholastic" sports world. I reminded him about the frogs, then he claimed he had to do some work.
Whereupon I encountered perhaps hundreds of chirping, peeping- and who-knows-what-else frogs heavily-camoflaged underneath eight-foot tall reeds and pine branches by a bunch of muck near a pond.
One frog really needed the camouflage. He was visiting from Providence and introduced himself as Joe The Beast.
"I'm really five-foot, six , 300 pounds - but I know you can't see me," Joe The Beast said.
"I'm not arguing, Joe."
"OK, well, it's like this. I had to get out of town and mellow out. My last job was to help a condo manager discover why he loved my friend's so-called illegal dog. He now loves the dog very much, as does the whole complex. So, listen, man, I need to chill. Beat it."
I could tell Joe needed some space. It appeared some female frogs were attracted to his gravelly chirp. I got the hell out of there.
If he wasn't getting busy, I knew Joe The Beast would have told me that frogs show us the health of the environment. They exchange water and air primarily through their skin and thus can absorb pollutants that are in the soil and water, according to bay naturalist Kathy Reshetiloff of Annapolis, Md. "Like a canary in a coal mine," Reshetiloff says, "a decline in local populations may indicate a contaminant problem."
Joe The Beast might or might not have known that he was actually a native of the region where I spotted him. The location is undisclosed because I like to think of it as my personal office. Some amphibians, Reshetiloff says, return to the same ponds and wetlands where they were born to breed.
With the earlier reports of happy frogs I cited, I was progressively building the facts for a story. Not enough yet, though.
I reached out for help to Jackie The Douche Bag Slayer, a private investigator and secret weapon for a certain state's public defenders. She rents her muscles and brain cells by the hour and gets mighty pissed when the bean counters jam up payment on old money way past due. I probably should have thought of that when I told her this case needed her special expertise.
"Hey, c'mon, I thought you really needed my help."
That statement came in a whelp, drowning out what I thought were the sounds of hundreds of partying frogs. The frog chorus grew, the calls were continuous and overlapping. The wind seemed to shudder over the pond.
"Yeah, I do [need your help]. Get me an audio from another location and we'll be good to go. Tell your boss it's a big case, cuz it is."
You can't bee too careful nailing down a story like this.
I went back a few days later to the same spot in the woods. Mating calls could be heard hundreds of yards away. Story confirmed. Jackie The Douche Bag Slayer was working another case. I shared my glory with a few friends including an old editor.
"So, make time to watch the frogs," he said, with all the authority of a newly-minted aphorism.
"You don't get to watch," I said. "You listen."