Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Woochie Chugger

Wordnerd gets inspiration credit for this story. Send her your $10 today, c/o Spiffytown, USA. Several years ago, when Boy was a youngster, we somehow found an intriguing pet through a science supply catalog. We placed our order, and received a very small box in the mail a few days later. Inside was a tiny, pale green claw frog. You may ask, what the henry is a claw frog? You may, because I did. It turns out, this little guy (I think it was a guy) was fascinating. He came with a little shaker of frog food, and a half-page of instructions (which is more than you get with a new baby). We kept fish for a little while, but they kept dying. It might have been from the thorough scrubbing they got with a toothbrush, but they were good and dead at any rate. A 15-gallon tank remained, so we outfitted it with some nice rocks, gravel, branches, and a lily pad. Boy, who had limited experience with naming things, decided he would be called Woochie Chugger, and poured him into his new home. Claw frogs like to stay mostly underwater. They can hold their breath a long time, and WC would normally float mid-depth, his enormous hind legs dangling behind, his bulging little beady eyes barely breaking the surface. He was a great swimmer, not so great at hopping. He would flop more than hop. He was about the size of a nickel when we installed him in the aquarium. The instructions said they would grow to their environment, so we (ok, some of us) were excited at the prospect of steaming, tender frog legs someday. Eventually the frogfood ran out. I had it on my grocery list, when I heard an excited hoot from Boy's room. "Dad! Come check this out!" I raced down the hallway and found Boy and Girl hovering over the aquarium. A bug had fallen into the tank, and was scrambling for its pathetic buggy life against the approaching doom. Woochie clomped its wide mouth over the bug, chewed once, and it was gone. Sweet. We all began looking for more bugs. Soon, a Japanese beetle was found and tossed to the water. WC watched it struggle disinterestedly, and finally ate it out of irritation at having his peaceful water disturbed. Sure enough, the frog grew. It was never without an appetite, as I'm sure 24 hours a day in a small glass tank was incredibly boring. But, to a little frogbrain, the moments of bug-filled excitement must have made up for the boring bits. At least, that's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night. There was no bug too big, too strong, or too wiley for Woochie Chugger. He devoured flies, junebugs, spiders, and even a cicaida without batting a lidless eye. One time we dropped a big, hairy wolf spider into the drink (the fast kind, that you have to throw shoes at before they slip into the woodwork to terrorize you later. Eew). Woochie was pretty excited; he stalked it like an alligator, the spider skating on the water's surface, unable to get any traction (duh, it's water). The frog clomped. Or, attempted to clomp. The spider was not interested in a tour of a frog's innards, and sprawled across his face, legs grippng eyes, nose, and throat. WC had to figure something out here, and used his ridiculously stunted arms to turn the spider around, trying to get a good chomp on it without the legs interfering. Around and around they went, nobody sure who would win. It was grand entertainment, all four of us plus two neighbor kids enthralled. Finally, frog had spider in its tiny hands, and looked at me for approval. I gave the thumbs down, and the spider disappeared in one satisfied bite. We fed it whole goldfish (sometimes WC would save half for later), crickets, and any legged or winged critter we could find. Bugs became cheap fun instead of creepy nuisances, and Woochie had reached the size of a baseball. One day, I found a long, winding caterpillar. I carried it back to WC's lair, expecting a short game of Centipede (but without needing to spend my quarters). The tank was empty; Woochie was missing. I held the bug while I searched the floor, the closet, under the bed, in the laundry - nothing. Woochie Chugger had flown the coop. It remains a mystery to this day, but Misty Meowzers, the cat, had a suspiciously satisfied look on her face. What was your coolest/ weirdest/ most horribly named pet?

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