Toad Ladder to Freedom
Summer before last (or was it the summer before that?) I noticed a little toad in my basement window well - you know, those corrugated aluminum-lined pits outside a window just below ground level. My neighbour had a new large pond and I'd heard a wonderful chorus of frogs or toads during the spring nights. That must be where it came from. I figured the toad wouldn't be able to climb out itself because of the straight sides of the window well but by the time I got back to trying to rescue it, it had disappeared: escaped .... or hidden.
Well, the toad ended up living there all this time - one or two summers and winters! I didn't actually noticed it until one day I came upon my cat sniffing around a hole in the clay-lined bottom of the window well. There was the toad, now a good size - about three inches across, peeking out from its little burrow. The cat just sniffed then left it alone.
For many days I pondered how I could catch the toad without hurting it. I dropped a few grasshoppers down for it, gave it a plateful of water, and checked often over the summer. It had somehow managed to survive on its own all this time, so I wasn't too worried it would continue to do so. It was always there, peeking out with its dark beautiful eyes from its smoothly curved burrow in the clay.
Finally I got the idea to prop a flat board into the well - maybe it would climb out on its own. One afternoon I scrounged up an appropriate piece of old lumber - one wide enough, the right texture and length for a good toad ladder - and gently placed it in the well. Thinking the toad might not notice the board for a while or would at least wait for the cover of nightfall to make its escape, I left it in peace and carried on with outside chores. When I double-checked a few mintues later, there was the toad already at the top of the board! What a beautiful creature - light gray, dusty nubbled skin, dark eyes, and cute little front feet. I froze, full of guilt for not thinking of the board sooner. How desperate it must have been! For here it was willing to risk a daylight climb on the toad ladder to freedom.
While I watched, it hopped off the end of the board, then into the thicket of snowberry. That was the right direction to the neighbour's pond, so I let it be. I never saw it again but I dream it made the 50 meter trek over the lawn, through the rose garden, the raspberry patch, and flower beds, to the pond where it fulfilled its heart's desire doing what toads do. Good luck little toad!