D. E. Larsen, DVM
My eighth-grade year was a significant learning year for me. I had moved from the small community of Broadbent at the end of my seventh grade. We moved to a dairy farm on Catching Creek, outside of the big city of Myrtle Point. I went from a class of 8 kids to an actual junior high school with an eighth grade class of probably 50 kids, taught in two classrooms.
At home, I had a creek to hunt in and a large marsh to learn, first hand, about biodiversity and biomass. This marsh dried to scattered pools in the summer months. These pools teemed with life: catfish, bullfrogs, polliwogs, muskrats, dragonfly larva, and more. And I learned them all.
In the classroom, I found teachers who actually thought I needed to do homework. This was utterly foreign to me. I felt that if I could do well on the tests, I had no need to do the daily work. It had worked well for me up to that time, and I could see no reason for it to be different now.
“I want each of you to pick a topic from the list and write a three-page research paper on that topic,” Mrs. Meyers said. “That means you need to go to the library and find information about the topic and write the paper. And you need to list your references at the end of the paper. I expect everyone to have at least 3 references.”
I raised my hand. “Mrs. Meyers, does the list of references count toward the three pages,” I asked?
“David, you can write more than three pages if you want, but if those references fill the third page, that counts.”
That was all I needed to hear. I would do what I had to do, none of those extra pages stuff for me.
Then, this group of girls in the class wanted to meet at the city library to do the research. And so it was agreed. I am not entirely sure who was all involved, but they were city kids.
For me, a trip to the city library was a big ordeal. My mother dropped me off. I would have to start walking the two miles home that night, and Mom would pick me up. She would plan to be in town at 8:00, so how far I had to walk just depended on when we finished.
Us boys were all seated at a large table in the library. We were working hard on our topics. We each had pulled our 3 reference books and were busy getting information down. I was trying to make sure that I listed as much information on the reference books as possible. My reference list filled half of the last page.
We boys talked in hushed tones, understanding that we were in a public library and not disturbing the other patrons. The girls were in and out of the book racks and not seated at their table. They kept coming to our table and talking a bit before rushing back to the rows of books and jabbering there.
It was not long, and the old lady running the library came by and told us we would have to be quiet. We explained that it was the girls who were making all the noise.
It was not long, and the old lady came by again.
“If you boys and girls can’t do your work quietly, I am going to have to ask you to leave,” The old lady said.
I am not sure that the girls had ever been disciplined in their lives. They didn’t change their conduct one bit.
“Okay, I gave you boys and girls two warnings,” the old lady said. “You are not showing any respect for the others here in the library. I am asking you to gather your stuff and leave now.”
Leave now, I thought, I will have to walk all the way home. We gathered our stuff, and the old lady ushered us out the front door.
There we were, standing on the sidewalk, trying to figure out why we boys got kicked out when we were not the ones making the noise. The girls were still giggling about the whole thing. I don’t think I had ever been kicked out of anything in my entire life. And now I was going to have to walk two miles home, in the dark.
Then the unexpected happened.
“What is that,” Rick asked?
Coming down the sidewalk was the largest and the ugliest toad that I had ever seen. It was close to a bullfrog’s size and had nobs like projections protruding from its head and back.
“That is the biggest toad I have ever seen,” I said.
“I have never seen anything like it,” one of the girls said.
I scooped up the toad to get a better look at it. I had seen a few smaller toads before, but nothing near this size. The toad did not seem afraid at all and sort of nestled in my hand.
“What are you going to do with him,” one of the noisiest girls asked?
“I think we should put him in the book return and give that old lady a thrill tonight,” I said.
I had noticed that she had retrieved several books earlier when she heard the lid on the book return clank.
“When she hears the lid, she will hurry over to get the book and put it away,” I explained. “Then she will have to spend the rest of the evening getting someone to get the toad out of there.”
And so it was agreed. And I opened the book return lid and carefully placed the toad in the bottom of the bin. I did not slam the cover, but I closed it in a loud enough manner that I was confident the old lady would hear it.
Then we laughed and scattered, each heading home. I started a slow walk. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it must have been well before 8:00.
When I reached the bridge on the edge of town that crosses the railroad tracks and the river, I stopped and watched the shack belonging to Shy the Panther. He was the town bum. There were a lot of stories about him. He was said to have got his name from his days as a boxer. There was no activity at the shack this night.
I was lucky. Mom showed up before I was across the bridge.
“Did you get done early,” Mom asked?
“We got kicked out of the library because the girls would not keep quiet,” I said.
“Are you sure it was just the girls making the noise?”
“Pretty sure, but that’s okay. I put a toad in the book return for the old lady who kicked us out,”
“David, you didn’t!”
“Yes, it was the biggest toad I have ever seen. It just came jumping down the sidewalk. I bet it made that old lady jump when she opened the bin on the inside.”
“I bet,” Mom said with a smile on her face.
In the years following, when I needed a laugh, I conjured up the image of that night. I pictured a hysterical reaction of that old lady when she retrieved the ‘book’ from the book return. Only to find the poor toad. It was probably unfair to the toad, but a very fitting payback to the old lady.