"Time's fun when you're having flies." -- Kermit the Frog
In a state closely associated with with reptiles, the amphibians are sometimes overlooked. However, organizations such as the Southwest Florida Amphibian Monitoring Network and the Hillsborough River Watershed Alliance's Frog Listening Network are keeping their eyes - and definitely their ears - open. It's important work, since amphibians can be indicators of the health or decline of our environment.
But for those of you who aren't the type to be convinced by gentle green throat-clearings, there is the movie Frogs!, starring 1970s vintage Sam Elliot, Ray Milland, and Joan Van Ark. Filmed in part at Eden Gardens State Park and Panama City Beach, Frogs! shows what happens when you spray too many chemicals on the hoppy creatures. That's right, nature gets even. The film's poster is a bullfrog with a severed hand in its mouth.
Perhaps those amphibians are just upset because they just read Ralph Stoutamire's 1952 publication, Bullfrog Farming and Frogging in Florida. Florida's frog industry was but a tadpole, but Stoutamire gave advice on the design and management of commercial frog farms. The best chapter is the "Statement of F. B. Cramer, Sr., President of the Southern Industries, Inc., Frog Farm Located Just North of Tampa, Florida." Page 35 shows Mr. Cramer himself, a respectible looking man wearing a tie, with his spectacles tucked into his shirt pocket as he holds a large spotted dangly-legged frog. To feed his frogs, he relies heavily on fiddler crabs found on bay beaches (Page 37 shows his special crab-catching apparatus). He sells the legs and arms to canners, and tans frog skins to be made into leather "ladies shoes, belts, purses, key rings, the covering of artificial bait for fishing and other novelties." The photos are great -- to illustrate how big the frogs are, a lovely lipsticked young lady holds two enormous amphibians by the feet. On the next page, four grim frog hunters pose with headlamps and gigs. Evidently Wauchula was the centrepointe for catching wild frogs, with 29,000 pounds shipped out in just 5 months of 1941. Stoutamire: "As a wild bullfrog seldom weighs more than 2 pounds, even the pessimistic must admit that is a lot of frogs."
Stoutamire's pièce de résistance is 16 pages of "Famous Ways to Serve Giant Frogs." Yes, 16 pages of 1950s frog recipes such as "Giant Frog Sandwich Spread," "Jellied Great Bullfrog Creamed Salad," and "Giant Bullfrog Fondue." I kid you not.