She was a middle-aged toad, as far as toads go. She had slept through six winters, each one blanketing the creek valley in cold, while she lay warm at the bottom of her burrow. Six summers had now passed since she had hopped away from the once-large puddle that had been her hatching place.

Not one of her 6,000 siblings had survived these past six years. From her perspective, her hatching puddle seemed enormous when she first emerged from her tiny gelatinous egg. As a tadpole, she had swum about, eating plant matter and exploring, and somehow she had managed to avoid the valley’s hungry cardinals and swallows. By early summer, just as the puddle was drying into the ground, she had climbed up out of the silty water, a tiny, bean-sized toad.

She made her way up the hill, now eating small bugs that came out in the evening air. By day, she would hunker down under a leaf or back into a small crevice in the rich valley soil. She traveled in the dark to the tune of the tree frogs. In time, she reached the perfect place to make her home. About halfway up the hill at the edge of the woods sat a small cabin, with a large side deck, cool soft earth under the front porch and a wonderful large steppingstone, just off of the deck. It was this stone that made this place the perfect toad home. The sun shone down on it all day, and all through the cool valley evenings, it radiated the day’s captured warmth.

Every evening, she would come out from under the cabin and sit on the stone, just waiting for her dinner to happen along. Quite often, the lady who lived in the cabin would come and sit beside her on the back deck. The cabin lady called her, very simply, Back Deck Toad. The toad never hopped away as the lady sat down.

The toad simply sat still as the lady pulled her knees up to her chest, her feet on the steppingstone, and there the two of them would sit, quietly enjoying the cool evening air, as they looked toward the woods behind the cabin.

Several years passed and the toad grew ever larger, easily reaching four inches in length. Every spring, the cabin lady would look for her and look forward to their evenings together on the back deck, but as we all know, nothing lasts forever. The cabin people had decided to build a larger log home, just across the gravel driveway, and when they had finished building that home, they moved across the driveway, leaving Back Deck Toad’s home behind. Because the lady no longer lived in the little cabin, she no longer shooed the chickens off the porch, and the free-ranging goats took up daytime residence on the side deck, and the deck fell into disrepair.

The people decided to tear the deck down. The lady was worried for Back Deck Toad, but the lady knew that progress was sometimes difficult. The people tore the deck off of the cabin, placing all of the rotted wood in their burn pile.

Some folks believe that toads are symbols of negativity, due to the toxins in their glands. It is true that once a predator eats a toad and falls ill from the toxins, that predator has learned to never eat another toad. Toads, however, are also often thought of as guardians, and I have always had the best of thoughts about Back Deck Toad and considered her as our diminutive creek valley guardian.

I definitely know that toads are territorial. Back Deck Toad returned faithfully year after year, as she grew ever larger. I also knew that she was a female by the white color of the soft skin under her throat. Male toads have dark gullets.

So, when we moved across the driveway into our new log home, I truly missed my little guardian neighbor. I would occasionally walk back across the driveway to visit Back Deck Toad, but it was somehow not the same. We no longer shared the same home, but things have a way of working out.

We have been living in our log home now for two years, and late last summer, Downstairs Door Toad took up residence just outside the downstairs basement door. He is a younger male, less than two inches in length, but most evenings I can find him, just outside the door. He must be drawn to the basement for if we are not careful, we will squish him as we come and go and as he tries to hop inside.

We plan to pour a cement pad just outside the door, to better knock the mud off of our work boots, but also to give Downstairs Door Toad a warm spot to enjoy the evenings and hunt for his dinner. It has occurred to me I really should build myself a stone bench, and place it just beside the door, so Downstairs Door Toad and I can sit together and enjoy the creek valley’s evening air. It really is a toad’s life, after all.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio.