Pine Nuts: frogs — our canaries in the mine |

Pine Nuts: frogs — our canaries in the mine

Everybody loves frogs. Who doesn’t lover Kermit? Mark Twain made his leap from journalism to literature on the back of a frog named, “Dan’l Webster.”

“Smiley stood scratching his head and looking down at Dan’l a long time, and at last he says, ‘I do wonder what in the nation that frog throw’d off for — I wonder if there ain’t something the matter with him — he ‘pears to look mighty baggy, somehow.’ And he ketched Dan’l by the nap of the neck, and hefted him, and says, ‘Why blame my cats if he don’t weigh five pound!’ and turned him upside down and he belched out a double handful of shot. And then he see how it was, and he was the maddest man — he set the frog down and took out after that feller, but he never ketched him.”

Possibly because of my love for that story, I have come to love frogs. So I was alarmed by a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey, “Populations of frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are declining at an average rate of 3.7 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years.”

What? How are we going to hold the Calaveras Frog Jump? Next question, “What if we are next?” A frog lives in both water and air, so she’s a litmus test for threats to our life on this planet.

Remember how the miners in Virginia City used to keep a canary down there with them in the mines and keep a wary eye on that canary?

If the canary stopped singing, well, it was time to get the hell out of there. But where are we going to go when our frog stops croaking?

The salient point is, we need to be paying more attention to the environment and our impact upon it. Frogs are survivors, but they have never had to face human pollution on a scale that is threatening their existence today.

Every decline in the population of an animal should send a shiver down the spine of us two legged creatures who imagine we are immortal.

We continue to smoke, drink, gamble and do the hoochie-koo without much concern for our fellow creatures that have no control over their environment.

So I guess what I’m getting to is this, when your 6-year-old comes home and laments, “Ma, I couldn’t find a frog to jump in the frog jumping contest.”

Don’t be disappointed about losing out on the $1,000 cash money your son might win were he to beat the record held by Rosie the Ribbiter, no, be alarmed in knowing that if we continue down the path we are currently trodding, we may be following the frog down a freshly paved and painted road to oblivion, where there is no happy hour, and no eight the easy way.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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