Monday, around 7 pm. Worked late today. It happens like that sometimes. You gotta have hard days to appreciate the good ones. Sometimes it gets cold outside, and you’re standing ankle deep in the muck, wondering why the tough ones always seem to drag on and on. Shoot. And we barely found any toads today.
That starts to bother you when you’re crawling on your belly with a flashlight, peering under a log to see if any of ’em squished themselves under there to hide. Your pants sop up the pondwater and you add being wet to your list of complaints. At least I’m not camping out there like the other guys – I can go home at the end of the day for a well-deserved beer and a good sleep in a bed.
We found three of them buggers today, all of them already PIT tagged. The first one was a female – they’re always bigger and brighter, more vibrant. I’m no expert yet, but its not especially hard to tell if it’s male or female during the breeding season, especially when you nab her and she starts oozing eggs all over your hands. Wave the PIT tag reader over her and it beeps up her number, and you check off that this is the first time anyone’s seen her since last year.
PIT stands for Passive Integrated Transponder. It’s a little electronic barcode we’ve implanted in toads so field techs like me can tell if they’ve ever been “marked” before. That is, if we’ve ever gotten our hands on them and taken their measurements. If you think that’s weird, there’s some other folks attaching little radio transmitting backpacks to the toads so we can track individuals even if they’re hiding deep in burrows, hibernating over the winter. If you find that strange, imagine what the toad must think.
Sometimes I’m sitting in the woods, doing my “trill” – a high pitched call that the male toads make and respond to, thus allowing us to find them more easily, and I get to thinking. What if I were just a-trillin’ away, and the whole meadow started to shake, and a massive toad as big as the trees came lumbering out of the forest to burp a big ol’ “RIBBIT.”
Then I snap out of it. Foolishness. Our toads don’t even “Ribbit”.
I also wonder what aliens must think, if they happen to be peering down to a meadow full of goofy looking, wader-wearing humans dawdling around in random directions, staring at the ground and taking notes. “Interesting survival adaptations,” they croak into their multi-dimensional data clouds. “I wonder how this increases overall fitness?” Then, in a series of trans-dimensional hops beyond the limitations of time and space, they’re back to their home galactic lillypad in time for hoppy hour.
Obviously, the aliens would be bipedal amphibians at the peak of toad evolution, wearing wader-esque space suits with literal fishbowls over their heads. Due to rampant global wetting on their home planet of Anaxyrus 7, they retain the ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen only as a vestigial adaptation to a much gassier planet millenia ago.