This is Part IV of an eight-part series of the same title. For Part I, see Oct. 19, 1911, for Part II, see Nov. 5, 1911, for Part III, see Nov. 12, 1911, for Parts V-a and V0b, see Nov. 26, 1911 and Dec. 3, 1911, for Part VI, see Dec. 10, 1911., and for Part VII, see Dec. 17, 1911.
This series was compiled and published as What Every Mother Should Know, (New York, 1914).
HOW SIX LITTLE CHILDREN WERE TAUGHT THE TRUTH
Part IV--The Toads and Frogs.
The next order of life to study should have been the fishes, but as Bobby's mother upon investigation found that the nearest stream which contained fishes was five miles away, she decided to go on to the next higher order: the frogs, and point out, as she went, the difference in the two.
Of course, there was no difficulty in getting toads, but just where to obtain and how to keep frogs puzzled the community for a few days, until at last it was decided first to make a pond for the frogs to live in, and then go to the nearby ponds and capture some.
They were especially fortunate in finding in their locality what at one time had been a reservoir, which had a pipe leading into it from a nearby spring, and another pipe leading out of it into a nearby stream. But the pipe connecting the reservoir with the stream, it was found could be corked, and in a few days there appeared a delightful pond of clear, clean and fresh water.
Their delight knew no restraint when the afternoon came for them to go in search of some occupants for this nice new home. Accordingly, they started out a little late in the afternoon, with pails in their hands, and eager, expectant and happy faces.
As they came within sight of the pond, they realized that they need search no further for frogs, for the air was filled with sounds--queer, croaking, unmusical sounds, but unmistakably sounds of the joy of the existence of frogs.
As they came nearer, there was one gulp--"Chu-u-ug"--after another, one splash after another. Then silence reigned supreme and not a sound could be heard.
The youngsters entered into the spirit of the hunt and scattered about the place. Some sat silently on logs or stones waiting patiently for a frog to appear on the edge of the pond; others crouched near the water waiting, with pails in hands, ready to catch a frog the moment he should appear.
It was great fun catching them, for no sooner was the word passed that a frog had been captured, when, lo! he was gone.
It was not long, however, before the little procession was marching homeward with frogs a-plenty.
This new pond made a fine place for them to live in, and they thrived and grew.
For a few days the children made a daily excursion to the pond upon the hill, and brought more frogs to the new home; they brought frogs' eggs, too, which they carried carefully in their pails.
The eggs were watched, and each day saw a change, so that within a week the pond was swarming with tiny tadpoles or "polly-wogs," as the children called them. These, too, they carefully observed while they fed them, and as the tiny legs and feet developed, while the tail became absorbed and disappeared--they were told that now the tadpole had changed into a frog and needed air. Then stones were placed into the pond, so large that their surfaces protruded from the water, and upon these the baby frogs hopped and croaked their thanks. The tadpole can be kept in a tadpole state a long time if he is not properly nourished. Also, if his tail is bitten off by an enemy it will grow again.
The toads were found to be more interesting, because they did more actual service to mankind. The children were told that toads live on land almost all of the time, only going to the water to lay their eggs; that they feed on insects from the garden, such as the grub, cut worm, slug, caterpillar, worms, etc. Anything alive he will eat. The toad is, therefore, a great help to the farmer, and no little boy would ever harm a toad if he but understood what a helpful creature he is in the garden.
The frog labors under many disadvantages, as well as having many enemies. The first great disadvantage is that he is neither a water creature, like the fish, nor a land creature like the reptile; so that his struggle for existence is very hard. Should he decide to leave one pond, where the enemy is overwhelming, his only chance is to start on a rainy day to discover a new home for himself, and if he has the good fortune to find one before the sun comes out and dries things up, he is safe.
At first the children showed a dislike to touch the toad, on account of getting warts, but they soon learned that the fluid which the toad expels when he is picked up suddenly, is harmless--and produced no warts--but there is a liquid which exudes from the toad when he is in severe pain (his means of self-defense) that burns the mucous membrane and causes stinging pain.
Animals, generally speaking, are aware of this fact, and if you watch a dog play with or tease a toad, you will see that he does not bite him, but simply puts his paw on him. The skunk, too, is most careful, and rolls the toad on the grass to wipe off this caustic fluid.
Toads during the process of development shed their outer skin every four or five weeks. Adult toads shed theirs about four times a year. This skin is shed in one piece, much as a man removes his shirt, and is then swallowed.
The tongue of a toad is fastened in front of his mouth, which helps greatly to catch his food, as he shoots his tongue out and seizes it. He does not drink like other creatures, but absorbs water through the pores of his skin. If kept in a dry place for even a few days, he will grow thin and die, but if a toad has proper environment he will live to be very old.
Toads do not breed, or produce their kind, until they are 3 or 4 years old. When at this age Miss Toad, or Frog, awakens from her long winter's sleep, she feels hungry, and glad, perhaps that she has lived through the winter, for she feels life within her. Undoubtedly she is glad and happy to be awake, and off she goes to search for food and friends.
Perhaps she finds Mr. Toad, who, too, feels life stirring within him; he also feels the joy of spring, so together they go to the breeding pond.
Like Mrs. Buttercup, Mrs. Toad has within her body a little nest where little seeds or eggs have been kept and have been growing, and now that the time has come when they need awakening to a new life, they need life from the Father Frog just as the buttercup needed pollen from the stamen.
Mr. Toad (or Frog), too, is stirred by this new and wonderful life giving desire within him, and when Mrs. Toad (or Frog) feels the eggs are to be expelled, he comes very close to her, and in order to fertilize every egg before it goes into the water, he holds her fast behind the arm, and as they are expelled he pours over them his life giving fluid, which enters every tiny egg and gives it life--a new life.
In a few days the eggs begin to grow; they are all encased in a colorless, transparent jelly-like substance, which serves as food for the tadpole while forming, and also for protection. They are spherical in shape, and in ten days the pond will swarm with tiny tadpoles.
Mrs. Frog lays between 500 and 1,000 eggs at one time; Mrs. Fish, however, is still more prolific, for she lays 1,000,000 eggs. Mrs. Fish lays her eggs in the water. She cleans a place by blowing all rubbish away with her fins, and there she deposits her eggs. Many of these float away before they can be fertilized by Mr. Fish.
Thus, the children were taught that the higher in the scale of development living creatures go, the greater care must be given them. Not only to the undeveloped seed within the mother's body, but also to the egg after it has passed from her to the nest, for as creatures develop and ascend the scale, their eggs and offspring become fewer. And emphasis was laid on the care Mr. Frog took to fertilize the egg BEFORE it went into the water -- one step higher than Mr. Fish.
There is no doubt that the words "cold-blooded," as applied to frogs and toads, hits the mark, for there is not the slightest affection or sympathy shown or felt for their own kind. They give no care or concern to the eggs after they are deposited, and the "polly-wog" has to depend on himself.
Nature seems to have given them but one instinct relative to their kind, and that is the one blind impulse or instinct of reproduction.
Early in the summer months, the frog orchestra seems well tuned, but as the cold days comes on the toads crawl into a hole, making it as they go, while the frogs go into the mud to sleep through the winter, out of reach of frost and snow, where they lie dormant until the spring air shall again inspire them with the joy of living.