Did You Just Eat A Frog?

I learned that the Marine Corps packs thrills. I didn't join expecting great food. However; after you force-march 15-miles, carrying a 70-pound pack on your 115-pound body, you want food. Any food. I'd tear into the tough, plastic Meal Ready To Eat pouch. I sucked out the compressed tuna using the sense memory of freshly shucked Louisiana oysters.

I didn't even pause to untie my boots and release their death grip. My cracker broke as I dug it into stale peanut butter. Chomping sounded like marching. I looked up and scanned the area to see my brothers-in-arms frantically trading chocolate pudding for spaghettios. Affix neckties instead of bayonets and you'd have the trading floor of Wall Street.
I dined through enlisted boot camp at Parris Island. I savored Officer Candidates School at Quantico, VA -- split into two courses, or summers. Basically I went to basic training three times. See my site at www.thepinkmarine.com.

At mealtimes I learned to be grateful. And grabby.

Our long training days taunted me with hope of a cool evening. We ate together, mostly in the chow hall, but sometimes outside. Sitting on the grass, enjoying a little wind-down meal time reminded me of a Texas night when I was ten...

Faint croaking lured me and my three brothers to the mysterious property next door.

Scooby Doo got us hopped up on bravery. We unglued ourselves from the black and white television. We held onto each other as we shook past our shared fence to get closer to our neighbor's pond that we spied from our yard, even though we'd never seen our neighbor. We crept past the garage, which was perhaps hiding a white kidnapper's van like in the cartoon. I was a half-brave trespasser, clad in cutoff Sears Tuffskin jeans.

Once we'd successfully trespassed onto the property next door, the smell of fresh cut grass awakened me. We came upon a Wonkaland plopped down in Bedford, Texas. Should Oompah Loomphas appear, none of us would flinch. Sure, we'd try to net one; but the expansive pond almost in our own backyard was magical enough.

I smelled algae before I saw it floating on the water. At the pond's edge, flecks of shimmering bounces caught my eye. Soon we were all four chasing tiny frogs. They shot up and out of the water like Jiffy Pop. I caught one, adjusting my closed hand so as to both keep him inside but not hurt him.

An old man appeared on the other side of the pond, out of nowhere. Or mist. Or prison.

"Who goes there?" he called out.

We froze. Maybe he was blind. Was he holding a sickle?

"Leave me some Spring Peepers. They eat mosquitoes," he said.

I heard the slosh of muck from his boots as he came closer to murder us. The miniature frog escaped my hand like a puppy jumping to his owner. In a second that neighbor turned into a kind, lonely hermit happy to share his froglets.

I went back often. That pond was my own animated world...

Swatting a mosquito slapped me back to Quantico. As we dined al fresco, one of my fellow Marines snatched a live frog from the grass. He popped it into his mouth. He ate the entire, wiggling, warty -- full size -- amphibian. No one ordered him, dared him or offered him a dollar.

My jaw dropped. No words stumbled out.

We graduated soon and I did what most young Marines on Liberty do -- I headed for a weekend in NYC. Pirates of Penzance was on Broadway starring Rex Smith. I hadn't seen men with hair all summer so I was doubly excited.

The frog-eater lived in New York. We met for dinner at Beefsteak Charlie's, excited to eat a good meal and see a show. I squeezed my baked potato closed to melt the butter.

"How was that frog?" I asked.

"Hard to pop. And hot. The bones were a challenge," he said. "I got a little sick." 

"Good," I said, implying you're a jarhead and a knucklehead. I cut my steak. We regurgitated the summer's rich events. Sort of a twisted cheese course.

The clock rushed the check. We had those theater tickets.

"Linda Ronstadt is hot," my buddy letched out.

"Yeah she is," I said.

I forgot she was in the show.

I wrote a book of Marine Corps boot camp stories.

1 comment:

  1. Obviously your frog eating friend was from NY. Frog eating is more of an art then that, but how was he to know being from the concrete and steel of the big apple? Frogs are similar to eating chicken in a way, first you remove all feathers with a chicken, with a frog all the skin. Next the entrails, with frogs just dispose of them down the toilet, but with chickens you can always put them in a jar and save them for catfish bait if desired, a very green thing to do.
    From this point on they are quite similar; the parts you wish to eat, and everyone likes the thigh and drumsticks, batter and fry.
    There. If you ever run into your NY buddy in the future you can pass this along. Eating frogs whole is only done by raccoons, bass and herons: whole they would even make a Cajun a "little sick". You gotta be Jussmartenuf to know this.

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