True Tales From The Wild Heart Critterarium
by Albert Lannon
1. TOADS IN A HOLE – When the summer monsoon storms hit and Wild Heart gets drenched, an amazing thing happens. Dozens of toads – Couch’s Spadefoot, Mexican Green, others, dig up and out of their self-imposed tombs and begin croaking madly, looking for love. They join the big Sonoran Desert Toads who hide in holes year-round in a mating frenzy.
One night two Spadefoots were calling each other, one from our little fish pond, the other from outside our fence. By morning they had found each other, the male with his arms around the female, clusters of fertilized eggs floating in the puddle. Monsoon rains are hit and miss, intense but in very small cells, so soon the puddles start drying up. Night one, the eggs are laid; night two tadpoles hatch. By night four or five, as the puddle shrinks, the tadpoles do a rapid metamorphosis into little toads, little fingernail size. Using the digging pur on their hind legs, they dig down into the still-moist soil to wait for the next storm. While doing all that they eat a lot of bugs, including mosquitoes, and anything that eats mosquitoes is our friend! ‘
With persistent drought there have not been many toads in recent summers. I miss them.
2. NIGHT MUSIC – I sleep outside on a futon on our back patio more than half the year, with mosquito netting to keep the occasional bug out. Just about every night with moonrise, or just before dawn, or at anytime they feel like it, it seems like hundreds of coyotes lift their voices, yipping and howling and singing in a Coyote Jamboree. Local dogs, and sometimes the donkeys down the road, are inspired to join in the music-making. Then they all quiet down and I hear the gentle hooting of great horned owls on their nightly hunt. Sometimes a cicada chimes in, or an awakened rooster, and then it is silent, the stars bright with the Milky Way winding its path through them. An occasional shooting star. I sleep, and I dream.
Albert Vetere Lannon lives on a Sonoran Desert acre he and his mate, artist and poet Kaitlin Meadows, call Wild Heart Ranch. A recipient of prizes from the Arizona State Poetry Society and Society of Southwestern Authors, his poetry, essays, reviews and stories have appeared in numerous “little” magazines over the years. He has also published two non-fiction history books and, at age 78, is currently working on a novel. He has written community news and local history for several publications, and remains active in opposing the building of an interstate highway through the Avra Valley west of Tucson, and aerial spraying of cancer-causing glyphosate that has sickened local residents with unreported effects on wildlife.