Frogs Can Get You To Jump For Joy

“Garcon! Un ordre des jambes du grenouille, s’il vous plait!” I’ve wanted to say that for years, just to show off.

Since I never did that well in French class it probably means, "Waiter, bring me an order of fried gopher ankles," but it’s supposed to mean, "Waiter, bring me an order of frog legs."

Ah, the glorious bullfrog, basso profundo of the frog world, possessed of the prettiest legs since Betty Grable was a World War Two pinup queen. Largest of the North American frogs, the bullfrog is the only one commercially-grown as a food crop.

A pair of frog legs on the hoof.

Depending on where you live, you can take bullfrogs by any method short of a low-yield nuclear device. You can fish, gig or spear, shoot with bow and arrow, net, or grab by hand. Of all the methods, the last is the most challenging.

Picture a pitch-dark night in deep summer. You are waist deep in a slow-moving stream or along the edge of a pond, a powerful flashlight in one hand, using the free hand to wipe away spider webs and swat biting insects.

Eyeballs Like Headlights
Your beam catches the glitter of a crouching bullfrog’s eyes, like tiny headlights from a parked car. Fix that beam squarely on the frog’s eye, slither closer, now on your knees, light steady on the frog, which is exhibiting anxiety — muscles tensed, throat working nervously, succulent legs bunched for a desperate leap to safety.

You pounce, grabbing the frog with a Rambo grip hoping that a couple of fingers will be behind the front legs, a couple in front.

Young Andy Vance is tickled at catching a nice bullfrog.

Frog love is tough love. The male squeezes the female in a sumo embrace until she expels eggs, which he then coats with sperm. It is not exactly "Love Story," but it works. The eggs adhere to vegetation and, assuming they aren’t eaten, they hatch in less than a week into tadpoles.

The estimate is that no more than 10 percent of eggs hatched will result in eating-sized frogs. One estimate is that each adult frog needs 20 feet of shoreline to itself. Males will fight for territory and while the fights aren’t deadly in themselves, the thrashing around does attract predators.

It’s two- to four years before a frog is frying-pan size (and a bullfrog can live nearly a decade in the wild and captive frogs have lived 15 or more years).

One Internet site offers domesticated frogs for $10- to $20 each, depending on size. "They are docile and easy to care for," says the promotional material … but later, underlined, the sellers emphasize that "Bullfrogs released into a region where they are not native or historically present can be a threat to native animals." Researchers in Western areas as diverse as British Columbia and Arizona believe that some species of frogs and smaller fish have been decimated by bullfrogs

Frog hunter Bob Call about to grab a bullfrog.

How To Cook Them
Here is the recommended pan fry method of “Big Easy Seafood” in Jefferson, La., (and if Cajuns don’t know how to fix frog legs, no one on earth does):

12 pair frog legs
Milk
1 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper,
1/4-cup corn meal.

Soak the frog legs in milk for at least 1 hour. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and corn meal together. Cover the frog legs with the mixture. Heat the cooking oil and use enough to cover the legs. Fry them about 4 minutes or until they are light brown. Do not overcook them.

Obviously you adjust the batter ingredients to the number of legs. This meal can be accompanied by hush puppies, dirty rice, baked beans, cole slaw, and sweet ice tea (not iced — you’re Down South, boy) in any combination or proportions.

Anyone who trash talks bullfrogs after that is probably a Yankee … .

For a fine assortment of Fishing gear, click here.

Joel Vance is the author of “Down Home Missouri (When Basketball Was King and Girls Were Scary” ($25); “Tails I Lose” ($25); “Grandma and the Buck Deer” (softcover $15); “Bobs, Brush and Brittanies “(hardcover $25); “Billy Barnstorm the Birch Lake Bomber “($15 — two 90-minute tapes of humor short stories read by the author); and “Autumn Shadows” limited edition, signed $45). All available from Cedar Glade Press, Box 1664, Jefferson City MO 65102. Add  $2/book for S/H.

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