By Christine Tailer
It was one of those summer days that was true to the forecast, hot and humid and not conducive to working outside. When thunder was not thundering off in the distance, it was thundering right overhead, and rain was pouring down from a dark gray sky.
We did manage to get the morning animal chores done during a brief, rain-free, interlude, but once we stepped out of our chore boots, we looked at each other, wondering what we were going to do with the rest of our day. My marbles, waiting to be sorted, lay spread out across my workbench. I ran my hand over them as I wistfully admired their many colors and patterns.
Greg noticed my hand. “Why don’t you stay inside and sort through your marbles,” he suggested.
I smiled back at him. It really would be a perfect day to sit at my bench and organize my more recently acquired mibs. I’d be able to enjoy the calming coolness of the cabin’s ground floor, and avoid the steamy humidity that reigned outside.
"Hmm, perhaps,” I replied, “but I don’t think so. I think this would be a perfect day to hang out with you, down in your shop.”
Off we went, down the hill to what really is one of my favorite places on the farm. A magical scent of grease and metal greets me whenever I step inside, and the sight of Greg’s many machines always spurs my imagination. I have learned that each machine has its own special purpose, and many have a very special history.
A Model A sits up on the rack in the mechanic’s side, waiting for its Greg rebuilt engine. Over on the machine side, there is the blacksmith corner by the door. This corner includes several buckets of bituminous coal given to us by a friend. Across the way is the metal bending and cutting area, right next to the old Atlas drill press, and then there is the lathe that Greg rebuilt, a gift from my father.
On down the machine shop wall stands the 1940s Van Norman, a horizontal and vertical axis milling machine, rescued with the help of a friend, and patiently returned to operating glory, now looking nothing like the hunk of frozen metal it was when we found it. It now stands beside the triple axis milling machine and tools that once to belonged to Greg’s uncle. To the right of the triple axis mill sits the computerized C&C router that can cut or etch anything Greg might imagine, and as you likely know, Greg can imagine just about anything.
I wondered which of his several, no let me rephrase that, MANY, projects Greg might decide to work on this day. He unlocked the shop door, and we stepped inside. He rolled up the large overhead door and headed towards the C&C router. I turned to look back outside, and only then then did I notice Greg’s shop toad, sitting there on the threshold and waiting to be let inside.
This toad is large, about the size of my fist, so there is no mistaking his identity. If I’ve been working in the garden, or spending time with the little horses, and stop by to see what Greg has been up to, I often find shop toad, sitting in the shade, just inside the shop door. It is odd, but I usually pause to say hello to the toad before I even greet my husband.
Curiously, I’ve always considered shop toad to be a fellow, perhaps because of his size, or perhaps because he hangs out with Greg, but I’ve never really known his gender. As I stood there and greeted him on this day, I decided that this would be the perfect time for me to learn about shop toad’s true identity.
Greg began to program his C&C router in order to fashion a brass plaque. I settled down on the rolling shop stool, pulled out my phone, and began to learn.
My research soon revealed that shop toad was a common American toad, sporting the scientific name Bufo Americanus. Now that would be a good name for this fellow, Bufo! I read on.
Common toads, such as Bufo, tend to walk up on all fours, rather than hop, further confirming shop toad’s identity, as I’ve never seen him hopping. He rather saunters slowly as he makes his way into, or out of, the shop. As I continued to read, I was surprised to learn that males are quite a bit smaller than females, and have black or brown throats. I took a closer look at shop toad. There was no mistaking it. He was not only large, but had a definite white throat. I also learned that female toads have rather round heads. Shop toad’s head was really quite round. Finally, I learned that male toads have circular toe pads on their hind feet, while females have more triangular pads. Shop toad’s pads were rather triangular
I had taken photos of shop toad with my phone just before I sat down to do my research. The toad had posed quite perfectly. I rose from the stool, looking shop toad in the eye and said, “Well now. It appears that you are really quite the lady! Should I be jealous about your frequent visits to my husband?” I bent down for a better photo, to capture an image of shop toad’s triangular toe pads and light colored throat.
She must not have liked my comment, for she did not stand still and pose as she usually does. She rather abruptly turned and sauntered quickly, for such a large toad, out the shop door and into the gray day beyond. I did not even have a chance to get the camera on my phone ready.
I called after her. “So sorry! No offense meant. I can still call you Bufo,” but she was already gone.
I do know that toads are territorial, and are also creatures of habit. I am certain that she will return, and I promise that then, I will properly apologize. Of course, she is more than welcome to visit Greg wherever she might wish.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.