The night was perfect, no moon, no wind, and the frogs were everywhere. I met Greg, my best friend whom I have known all my life, at his house. We double checked our gear; a gig, which had five sharp prongs on the end of a ten foot wooden pole, a paddle, a light, and my other friend, a High Standard Double Nine 22. We loaded our trusty old fiberglass boat and headed for the spot. This particular place was an old slough near DeQueen, Arkansas, in the Pond Creek Bottoms, which is located in southwest Arkansas.
When we finally arrived, we could hear the frogs hollering over the truck noise. We unloaded the boat, put a chew of Red Man in our jaw, and started after the most sought after summer critter in the south, the notorious BULLFROG. Some of these frogs are as big as a five-gallon bucket. (Well, maybe not that big, but at night they look pretty big!) I grabbed the paddle and Greg put the twelve volt light, which is mounted on an old highway hard hat, on his head, and we began. With the light on his head, Greg was able to see the big frogs' eyes shine in the beam of the light, and the frog would sit still, except on a moonlit night. When the moon is full the frogs will not hold as well, because the headlight isn't as bright as it is on a moonless night. Once we had him in our beam of light I would head Greg toward the frog and when he was in range, he would stab him with the gig.
This night was great because the frogs were everywhere, and so were the snakes. We had seen at least two snakes for every one frog, and we almost had our limit, which was eighteen frogs per person. My father always said, "Where there are frogs, there are snakes," and we had seen a lot of bigguns! This is the reason that I carried my 22 pistol. The cotton mouth snake is very aggressive and has been know to jump in a boat from the water or fall into a boat from an overhanging tree. This has happened before and that's why I won't let Greg carry a gun. He is deathly afraid of snakes and has been known to shoot a hole in the bottom of the boat.
After an hour or two we came to the best part of the slough for big frogs. It was also the side with the most brush. Greg spotted the father of all frogs, but there was one problem, he was way back under the brush. Without a second thought I headed Greg in that direction, with him protesting the whole way. Just about the time for him to gig the frog, we heard the sound of a snake landing in the bottom of the boat. With a calm but serious voice, Greg asked, "Sonny, was that a snake or just you trying to scare me?" I never said a word, just continued to push him into the brush after that frog. After he had the frog on the gig, he turned to see what had made the noise, and without a word left the boat! This would not be a problem except for the fact that he had the light. The old saying came to my mind, "If you can't beat them, join them," and that's what I did. So now we were in waist deep water with no light, because when he left the boat he took the light but left the battery behind.
After a moment or two the thought came to us that there were more snakes in the water than there were in the boat. Without much more consideration we headed for the bank, which in itself was a chore. Before we reached the bank, Greg fell over a sunken log, and not only did he go under but pulled me along for the ride. Once we were safely on the bank, Greg asked, "How are we going to get the boat?" I couldn't believe we had left the boat behind, because when we started toward the bank it was right there with us but now it was a good forty yards away from the bank. I blamed Greg and he blamed me but all this fussing and fighting wasn't getting our boat back.
I devised a plan. We played rock, paper, scissors to determine who would do what. The first job, which I got to do, was to walk back to the truck and get a rope. This at first sounded like the best deal but I changed my tune before I reached the truck. If you have ever walked in the woods on a dark summer night without a light and your nerves have already been put to the test, then you can imagine what I went through. We were in the Pond Creek Bottoms and water was everywhere. Needless to say, on the two-mile trek back to the truck I had more mud and I was wetter than when I began. I fell down in the mud and spooked a flock of turkeys, causing some bodily harm but not near as much as the next scare.
I had to go through a briar thicket to get to my truck. This is not easy task in the daylight, much less in the dark, but I had a little help getting through. I was concentrating on getting through the patch without getting scratched to pieces when a swamp rabbit (about three times as big as the average cottontail), ran through my legs. The next thing I knew I was at the truck with fewer clothes on than when I had started and a lot less blood in me. I retrieved the rope and another light and headed back to Greg.
When I reached the bank Greg was nowhere to be found. After I hollered for him I discovered he was about 100 yards from the bank. I took off after him and found him in a strange predicament. He was in a tree about ten feet off the ground. Come to find out he began to wander around after I left and before he knew what happened he had awakened a herd of wild hogs. Wild hogs are known for their short tempers--especially when they are disturbed. He ran for his life and found a tree with a low enough limb and was able to climb the tree to safety. You have to know Greg to realize just how funny this was. He is about 6'1", 250-pounds and very clumsy. When he got out of the tree he had fewer clothes and more blood on him than I did and the night wasn't over yet. Before we could get back to the task at hand we had to find one of his rubber boots. We found it in a mud hole where it had gotten stuck and left behind in the excitement.
When we got back to the bank it was his turn to try to retrieve the boat. I handed him the light and the rope and he stared into the water. The boat was even farther from the bank than when I had left, so to get to the boat he had to swim. While he was swimming he dropped the light and had to go diving in that stinky black water. After he got the light back he proceeded to swim to the boat. He must have forgotten about the snake in the boat because when he reached the boat he started to climb in but his weight and my reminding him of the snake kept him from doing so. Instead, he tied the rope to it and let me pull him and the boat to the bank.
When he reached the bank we noticed that the snake was gone, but so were about half of the frogs' legs! We figured that this must not have been this snake's first hijack. We got back to the truck without any further trouble, but when we tried to start it we discovered that the battery was dead. This just wasn't our night!