We returned from Connecticut on Thursday morning leaving behind rising temperatures and humidity. Here in Arizona we are greeted by sunny skies with dry air and a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit. After New England’s humidity, it almost feels good.
We spend most of Friday running errands but today is a restful day and we sleep late. I awake before Gus on this fine Saturday morning but once he gets up we decide to drive into town for breakfast. We spend a leisurely afternoon with Gus playing cards on the computer while I read a book and drift off to sleep with my cats curled next to me.
Tonight we sit on the patio watching the skies darken and lightening flash in the distance. The flag is blowing to the Northeast but the storm is coming from that same direction. We watch as the flag goes limp, then switches direction before the skies open and pour down liquid gold from the heavens. I listen as thunder cracks the night following the flashes of lightening. I don’t want to be a lightening magnet and decide to go inside while Gus stays out to enjoy the raging storm. Though I know it is foolish, I decide to upload some vacation photos on the computer while Gus is distracted by the weather. I am successful in offloading two photo cards before a loud crack of thunder and lightning cause the power to flicker and the computer to shut off along with all the lights. They come back on instantaneously but I decide that now is not the time to use the computer after all.
As the pouring rain pounds down on our new patio I go outside under the covered portion to see for myself that the newly installed drains really can handle this volume of water. Suddenly above the storm I hear the raspy cries of what sounds like an animal in distress. In my mind I imagine a rabbit, rat or javalina caught in the raging torrent that is rushing into the wash. I run inside for a flashlight and the footstool so that I can stand on it to see over the block wall and into the wash while still remaining beneath the covered portion of the patio and thus keeping myself dry. I shine the light into the brown churning water but can find nothing. Gus sees my distress and takes the light from me and walks into the pouring rain over to the block wall to look for himself. All he got was wet, for he could not see the source of the sound either.
Undeterred, I decide I have to know what is making that sound. I take the flashlight, don a jacket, grab an umbrella and go out the front door where I walk down the wet sidewalk to the metal railing that surrounds the wash. Yes, here I am out in a thunderstorm holding an umbrella and leaning on a metal fence because I need to satisfy my curiosity. I shine the light into the water and see some movement. Something is swimming in the water. The croaking cries continue and now that I am closer I realize there is more than one. Has some momma rat lost her brood once again and is she swimming in that muddy water trying valiantly to save her young? I search among the flooded brush and grasses trying to locate the source of the sound. Finally I can see something hidden in the grasses opening and closing its mouth. It is too far way for me to see for sure what it is, but by now I am certain it is not a mammal. From what I can make out, it appears to be a giant frog or a lizard.
Since I am getting drenched I decide to return to the house and tell Gus what I have discovered. My flashlight is still on as I turn but just as I am hitting the button to shut it off the edge of the beam illuminates a lump on the sidewalk before me. I see it only briefly before the light goes out. I quickly turn it on again and stand flabbergasted as I take in the sight of a toad the size of a softball sitting in the middle of the sidewalk.
My brain starts to churn in overtime and I recall seeing this species talked about on the news or PBS. While I can’t recall the name of it I do recall that it has poison glands behind its ears which I now see bulging in the beam of my flashlight. I am not afraid, but fascinated, for it cannot hurt me if I don’t pick it up (which I have no intention of doing given what I now know, though I would if I didn’t know better. I like frogs and toads.).
Seeing the toad solves the mystery of the sound in the storm, but it also solves a mystery from a year ago and I rush excitedly home to tell Gus. The toad doesn’t even move as I step over it and hurry back up the sidewalk to the house. I burst through the door calling to Gus, “Quick, get on your shoes! Come see what I found! I know what is making the sound, and I think it is the thing that you encountered on your walk last summer!” Gus, who had settled into his recliner, quickly gets up and follows me out the door in his slippers. The rain has tapered off somewhat and is falling at a more gentle rate. I pass the flashlight and umbrella to him and tell him where to point it.
There on the sidewalk before him the toad still sits like a lump. While he keeps watch I rush back to the house for the camera remembering last summer when he came in from a twilight walk with Blossom excitedly telling me of some strange creature he encountered in the dark. He described it as being soft and round and when he touched it with his toe it scurried off down the embankment towards the wash. We racked our brains trying to figure out what it was. A tarantula? A packrat? A lizard? But though Gus could not see it well, none of those guesses seemed to fit what he had experienced. Now we have our answer.
I handed the Nikon D80 to Gus and held the flashlight and umbrella for him, trying to protect the electronics from the rain. Gus snapped off 22 photos of the creature, which didn’t seem disturbed by our presence at all. Meanwhile, the croaking songs in the wash continue. Later, after he had uploaded the photos onto the computer I open the back door to check on the progress of the storm. The rain has picked up again and as I scan the yard in the dim light from our patio ceiling fan I am shocked to see yet another toad hopping across the bricks near the stone wall. I call to Gus and he brings the camera to get yet another shot.
I have no idea how this animal got into our backyard but we are concerned that it is trapped. While we discuss whether to try to capture and release it, the frog neatly leaps up onto the 12 inch stone wall and hops down on the other side. Still, Gus tries to lift it with the shovel without getting too close. The hopping toad causes Gus to rush back under the patio with me. We decide to leave nature to itself and check in the morning to see if the toad has found its own way out. It was a good decision.