By CHRISTINE TAILER
We live two miles down a one-lane, dead-end road. We drive past two farms to get to ours, and only one farm lies farther on down the creek, so on those rare occasions when we hear an approaching vehicle, it is cause for curious excitement.
If we happen to come upon our neighbors, as we drive in or out, we pull as far to the side of the road as we can.
There are places, though, where the creek bank is too steep and there is no room to pull off. One or the other of us must then back up so we can safely pass by.
Drivers’ windows down, we pause, window to window, leaning on our elbows, and share our thoughts about the weather, or the crops, or a piece of farm machinery that it not working quite so well. And then we have other creek neighbors who we see, or hear from, on a
more regular basis.
There is Buckwheat, the deer, who stands in the buckwheat field each evening. She appears to be growing fatter by the day, as she eats her way into our freezer.
And there are the red-tailed hawks who circle above the valley, darting down to the fields to scoop up the unwary chipmunk or basking snake.
There is the colony of turtles that suns on the dry creek rocks. They stretch out their necks and turn their back feet up behind them, gathering up as much of the sun’s energy as possible.
And of course we have the red fox, who stalk our chickens and the coyote who howl up and down the creek at night.
But none of these other creek valley creatures are quite as neighborly as our house toads.
Just as I can count on spring finally turning to summer, and summer becoming hot and dry, I can count on the house toads, with absolute certainly, to greet me every single summer evening.
There is the medium-sized, front step toad. We have known him for the past two summers, and each evening, I can find him sitting on the large creek rock that serves as the threshold to the cabin’s front porch.
Greg and I might think that the rock is ours, but this toad thinks differently.
He firmly plants himself just to the left side of the step and does not budge, even if we pass by.
As I walk up and down the steps, I realize that I am actually a visitor to his evening world, and it is I who must be careful not to step on him. And then there is the smaller, side deck toad.
For some reason, I imagine that she is a female. She is a new neighbor this year, and perhaps that is why she is not as bold as the front step toad.
When I go outside to flip the switch on the inverter, so we can watch our 110-volt powered television, she quickly hops out of my way, only stopping once she has gotten safely under the picnic table.
There she will sit, still facing away from me, as if to pout and say “Now look what you made me do.”
And last, but hardly least, there is the back deck toad. We have known him for several years now.
He is huge, his body close to four inches long from nose to rump, and like his front step brother, he is not easily scared.
He will watch, like a still sentinel, as I pass by to flip the inverter switch. He even knows me so well that I can actually sit down beside him on the back deck, and we can watch the night together.
I pull my knees up against my chest, trying to be as triangular as he is. I feel thankful for his watchful company, and wonder what he thinks.
No doubt about it. All of our creek neighbors, and our house toads, are very special indeed.
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. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.