Mason County News
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Toad’s (last) Day Out
Wednesday, April 22, 2009 • Posted April 22, 2009

Sometimes I wonder, while I’m sitting around trying to have insights for something to write about, why we Americans have to be so civilized. There’s really not any good reason for it. The rest of the world often resembles a bunch of preschoolers in a Burger King playground, while America sits nearby on hard, uncomfortable plastic chairs and frowns adultly at them, as if having fun were undignified.

When my kids were little and we went to Burger King, I didn’t do that. I took off my shoes and went into the ball pit, and slid down the slide, and chased the kids through the maze. The other parents, sitting on their hard, plastic chairs, frowned at me and fingered their cell phones, in case they needed to call the Pervert Hotline on me, so every once in a while I would grab one of my boys and shake him at my wife and say, “Hey, Wife, this is our child, isn’t it?” She would nod in an embarrassed manner, and I would say, “Tell that woman over there, with the cell phone, not to call the Pervert Hotline.” And then I would go back into the maze.

My wife always hated it when I did that, but it was a lot more fun than sitting on a hard, plastic chair and frowning. And, deep down, I think the other parents were jealous.

The same thing happens on an international level. America sits on the uncomfortable chairs, being grown up, while other countries get to have all the fun. We give them money, and they hit one another over the head with their shoes. Where’s the joy in that?

Other countries do whatever they want, without worrying about the consequences. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, for example, and La Tomatina, the big tomato fight they have in Valencia, Spain. People get hurt, and sometimes completely killed, during those events, and it’s no big deal. You couldn’t do that here in America, with the infestation of lawyers we have. People have been sued just for suggesting stuff like that.

Plus there’s that thing they have somewhere in Italy where they start by tossing a live goat out of a tower. I forget what it’s called, but it sounds like a lot of fun. We can’t get away with tossing so much as a kitten without being attacked by a slew of whiners.

So when I read about Australia’s ‘Toad Day Out’ I was immediately overcome with jealousy. Australia is infested with ‘cane toads,’ which were brought in about 1935 to control beetles on sugarcane plantations. This was a bonehead move, as the toads couldn’t jump high enough to catch the beetles, which wisely stayed on top of the cane plants. But the toads multiplied quickly, and now you can’t sling a kangaroo in Australia without hitting a cane toad.

The problem is that the toads are wiping out other frogs, insects, small reptiles, mammals, and even birds. They spread diseases, and secrete a toxic substance from their skin. They grow up to eight inches in length, and are getting to be a serious problem.

A reader sent me an MSNBC article about these toads, and it contains a picture of one of them. These toads are ugly. Not regular ugly. Serious ugly. These toads would never be cast in a Budweiser commercial. Maybe that’s why so many Aussies hate them.

The article describes Shane Knuth, who came up with the Toad Day Out idea, as ‘a longtime loather of cane toads.’ Shane is quoted as saying, “They’re killing our native wildlife, they’re taking over our habitat, and they’re hopping all through this country.”

The Toad Day Out idea Shane came up with is to offer a bounty of 40 Australian cents per toad, which is equivalent to either 28 cents American or half a koala bear. That evidently isn’t going to happen, but organizers are offering prizes for the largest toad brought in, and for the most total poundage of toadage. Prizes range from an actual stuffed cane toad to gift certificates for local resorts.

The toads have to be alive and healthy to count, which doesn’t make sense, because the plan is to euthanize the toads and use them to fertilize cane fields. But these toads must be really horrible pests, because even the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is on board, as long as the toads are killed humanely. They don’t want people hitting them with baseball bats or golf clubs. Which takes a lot of the fun out of it, but there you go.

Unfortunately, as usual, I’m late with this news. Toad Day Out was the last Saturday in March, so if you were planning to rush down under to participate in the Big Toadoff, you’ll have to wait until next year.

But if you’re going to go down there and frown disapprovingly, don’t tell them I sent you. Because I plan to take my golf clubs . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once built a little house for some toads. Really. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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