Recently I was in a sporting goods store and I saw something
that brought back a flood of memories.
It was a frog gig. I’m certain
it could find many uses other than for catching frogs, so I guess it makes
sense for it to be in a store in an area that isn’t exactly known for
bullfrogs, but when I see a frog gig, all I can think of is frog hunting.
When I was about six or seven years old I came across some
photos from the late 1930’s of my grandfather and his son (my uncle I had never
met) showing off the results of a night spent catching bullfrogs. I asked a few questions about the frogs and
why they hunted them, but all I got in return was a sad look and a sigh. I didn’t understand what it was about, but I
didn’t ask any more questions. (I
discovered a few years later my uncle had been a casualty of WWII’s Pacific
Some time passed and one day my grandfather brought home
from somewhere a bunch of frog legs to cook up for me to try. He showed me how to skin them, and how to
cut the tendon between the drumstick and the thigh. He said if we didn’t cut it, the frog leg would try to jump out
of the frying pan. Okay. Well, he fried them up like chicken legs and
let me try one. Then I understood why
he and my uncle hunted them. They were
good. Really good.
A couple of years passed and I was now eight or nine, maybe
ten, years old. Papa brought me out to
one of the old barns where he had some long bamboo poles with a three-pronged
spike tied on each one (sort of like a trident but bent a little
differently). He told me we were going
frog gigging in a couple of days.
Actually it would be at night with a flashlight, and I should expect to
The evening finally came for the hunt. I really didn’t know how this worked, but
Papa assured me that if I just watched him for a few minutes, I would
understand what to do. We arrived at
the big stock tank of one of the nearby ranches about the same time as the sun
set, and Papa grabbed a pole and started off towards some reeds along the bank,
and I just mimicked what he did.
At the edged of the reeds Papa held up his pole with both
hands in a striking position and simply froze in place. At first I thought something was wrong, but
I quickly realized he was waiting for a frog to make his appearance. Suddenly there was a loud croak, and Papa
turned slightly and thrust his pole into the reeds. Then he backed away pulling out a huge bullfrog. I caught on quickly. In about two hours we had a washtub full of
We drove home where I learned the joys of cleaning
frogs. But the results were a couple of
meals of frog legs. I like frog legs
although I rarely find them on any menu.
And I also don’t live where I can easily hunt them, but that’s okay
since I wouldn’t be physically able to do it anyway.
Papa and I went frog gigging a couple of more times before
he became ill and couldn’t do it anymore.
I tried it on my own a few times, but it just wasn’t any fun by myself,
and I couldn’t talk any of my friends into trying it.
Flash forward quite a few years and I began attending an
annual event known in SoCal as the Wild Game Feed where frog legs are one of
the appetizers served almost every year.
Needless to say, I’m always quick to get in line. They are served with a couple of other
interesting items, and every year I have some fun with someone who hasn’t tried
One year I was in line with a guy who thought some of the
items being served were not really as labeled.
I watched as he loaded up with what he called popcorn chicken, chicken
drumsticks, and onion rings. I took a
small portion of each and stood nearby to watch as he tried each one. First was the onion rings.
This guy chewed and chewed and finally swallowed, but he
gave the rings a pass for eating any more. Then he tried the drumsticks.
One bite, a strange look, and one more bite. That was all. Then for
the popcorn chicken. As he was chewing
on the first bite, I walked up to him and simply said, “They really are labeled
The man smiled at me and handed me his serving dish as he
rinsed out his mouth with big swallows of beer. “Please explain,” he choked out.
“Well the signs and labels are accurate. The onion rings are actually calamari as
stated. Squid. Very tasty, but not onion rings. The frog legs really are frog legs, not
chicken legs. And the turkey nuts are
actually turkey nuts. This is a wild
game feed, the real thing, not a fake.”
The guy was a bit pale for a few minutes, but he did ask for
his dish back. I encouraged him to sample
in moderation, and ask questions if he was unsure. I’ve seen him return year after year, and now he will try things
Speaking of things I won’t try, I was reading about how the
Aztec’s served frog. Basically they
covered it is some kind of dough and wrapped that up in banana leaves. A few hours of baking, and it was time to
eat. At first I thought it would be
interesting until I read the frog was still alive when they wrapped it up. Hmm…whole frog does not appeal to me.
Well, I stood there at the sporting goods store looking at
that frog gig for quite a while reminiscing.
I was noticed by a sales clerk who came over to “help” me with my
purchases. At the moment he arrived I
had taken the frog gig off the display hook and was actually considering buying
“Mister, that poker you’re holding is the best thing that
ever happened to a fisherman. You just
put it on the end of your rod, and when the fish gets near you stick him with
it. Works every time.”
I looked at the clerk for a moment or two, replaced the frog
gig on the display hook and left the store.
It just wasn’t worth trying to explain.