When lots of storm water would come in late spring, I remember seeing toads come up out of the mud from under the porch at my Grandma’s house. We would sit in the chairs out by the steps and count the little hopping forms casting blips of shadow on warm pavement. Grandma said that’s why they came out, to sit on the warm cement in the cool evenings. We would watch this little parade of toads in the pale light of a corner street lamp. When the moon was full, it outshone that street lamp, I remember because I could see to climb in the magnolia tree, her broad soft leaves grew in clusters which bunched, and as I moved through the thin branches, they would bend and open, the large cracks letting in moonlight to guide my feet and hands. On those nights lots of neighborhood kids stayed out late to play because we could all see so well. In the small town of Binger Oklahoma, on warm summer nights under the full moon, children were aloud to play outside together in the dark without fear. In all my childhood wanderings in that rural town, in all the times I saw wild things and played in wild places, I never felt afraid. There were poisonous snakes, rabid dogs, flash floods, tornadoes, thunderstorms, black widows, angry bulls, feral cats, and drunk strangers, none of which I ever had a problem with in my time outside. I had awareness, quiet observation, instinct, common sense, and the experience of moving through a familiar landscape to my credit. I knew what was ok and what was not. I didn’t stick my hand down holes, talk to strangers, approach animals bigger than me (as a child most things you can’t hold in two hands easily is bigger than you), and I always let adults know where I was headed. My father would call me home with a Bobwhite Quail whistle which somehow managed to travel through the wind to my ear wherever I was. His method of calling me home always seemed to work. Back in the city with my mother’s mother, Grandmother, a store bought whistle was employed with less success. I think the noise of that fast flowing creek water made it hard to hear. Somewhat ironic, the name of that stream back in the city where my Mother’s parents lived was Quail Creek! I never was or heard a quail there though.
by Liz Crain