By Christine Tailer
It was summertime in the creek valley, still early summer, but summertime none the less, and the tree frogs were singing their tree frog song. I wasn't quite sure, though. I wondered if it was tree frogs or crickets I heard outside my night window as I slowly drifted off to sleep. In my heart, I imagined that the trilling sound I heard was the call of hundreds of diminutive frogs, calling to the valley's night air.
I half heard Greg return from his end-of-day animal rounds. No doubt the pigeons and chickens were safe in their coops, and the goats and sheep were snuggled down in their yards. I had already checked on the horses and cattle, and I knew that a fog blanket covered the creek valley, hanging low over the bottom fields. I had not been able to see a single star in the sky overhead as I walked back up the hill to our brightly lit home. The contrast of the light shining through the windows made the night outside seem truly pitch black.
Just as my eyes closed, I heard Greg call from the ground floor. "Christine, come check this out."
I sat up on the edge of the bed and slid my feet into my slippers. I headed downstairs. Greg stood by the first floor door, a flashlight in his hand, a smile on his face. He turned, and I followed him outside, back into the dark. His flashlight beam marked our way.
As we walked out into the upper field, I placed my hand on his arm. We headed toward the goat yard, and I began to wish that I had stopped by the ground floor door to put on my chore boots. My slippered feet were becoming quite wet stepping through the damp grass.
Greg must have felt my wet footed hesitation. "Not much farther," he said.
We stopped after just a few more steps and Greg raised the flashlight's beam so it shown up into the trees. My eyes followed the sweeping light. "Do you see that?" he asked.
My grip on his arm tightened with wonder. There, in the trees, reflecting the light back at us, were hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny pairs of tree frog eyes.
We stood still as Greg swept the beam of his light all around the edges of the upper field. The high-pitched sound of the little frogs' wavering song filled my heart. I could never have begun to imagine that there really were so very many tree frogs living in the valley's woods.
For 20 years, we had called these hillsides our home. How could I have not known that we had so many bright-eyed neighbors? Granted, tree frogs are nocturnal, and perhaps this explains why I'd never seen them before, but we often walk outside after dark to make one last check on the animals. Why hadn't we noticed the multitude of little eyes staring back into our flashlight beams?
Then, it occurred to me. We shine our lights down on the ground to assure safe nighttime footing. We well know that the upper field is dotted with hazards such as ground squirrel holes and fallen branches that sneak out from the edges of the woods.
We have always been proud to say that we don't have a problem with mosquitos in the creek valley, and now I believe that I know why. It is all thanks to this mighty army of voracious, though tiny, tree frogs. As I drifted off to sleep, listening to their nighttime song, I imagined them happily dining and keeping watch over our valley world, and yes, I smiled.
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.