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Survival of the 'road toads'

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

It was late afternoon when I remembered that we still had to head out for dog food. It seems that three big dogs chomp their way through the 40-pound bags far faster than the mathematical increase from two big dogs would suggest, but then I concede that I am not a mathematician.

I gathered up Greg from his shop and we headed out to town, across the river, figuring that as long as we were leaving, we might as well pick up a few other things we needed.

A metal pole on which to mount the iron horse head for the hitching post, a new leash to match the new dog’s collar, and hummingbird syrup for the feeders.

By the time our shopping was done and we turned back off onto the creek road, the last of the daylight had faded and it had become quite dark.

The car’s headlights shone brightly down the tunnel of new green that arched across the road ahead.

A light mist wafted up from the road’s black surface, the recent rain evaporating in the warm evening air. I drove slowly on, in no rush to pass through the night.

Until Greg hollered “Watch out!”

I abruptly stopped the car. There, just ahead, was a toad, sitting like a small triangular pillar, right in the middle of the tire track.

I took my foot off the brake to ease forward and pass to the right of the motionless toad.

“No! There!” and Greg pointed to another toad sitting close to the edge of the road.

I inched the car forward, dodging toads, going from one side of the road to the other, and sometimes having to straddle several of the diminutive creatures.

As we would pass over a toad or two, I found myself holding my breath, and hoping that the creatures below would sit still, and not jump up and bump their heads on the car’s undercarriage.

At one point I just stopped. I could easily see ten toads dotting the misty road ahead.

Some were quite tiny, no bigger than a dime. Others were easily the size of silver dollars.

Some faced this way. Others faced that. And they all sat perfectly still. Greg helped me navigate our path through their silent night watch, and eventually we made it down the two miles of creek road to the farm.

The next morning the sun shone bright, but it was with great trepidation that I joined Greg and the dogs for a walk.

I envisioned countless flat toads dotting the road’s now dry surface.

As we headed down the hill, I reasoned that at least I would know that I had tried, but as we stepped out of the gravel driveway, and I looked up the road, there was not a single squished toad in sight!

Perhaps the creek buzzards had enjoyed an early morning breakfast of flat road toads, or perhaps our painstaking slow drive home the night before had paid off. I honestly do not know, and I doubt that I ever will, but I prefer to think the latter.

I think I’ll place my dimes and silver dollars on plump road toads, sentinels of the misty night.

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

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