Word from the Range, Eating Out

Word from the Range

By Lyn Messersmith



Eating Out


Remember when your parents nagged you to clean up your plate? You fed peas to the dog under the table, and wadded up the crusts of your bread to hide under the edge of the plate. And Mom made you come back to the table and eat the mushy crusts, didn’t she? When she caught on to the pea trick the dog got shut up at mealtime.

Nowadays, concerns for obesity have parents letting up on the clean plate rule, never mind the “starving kids in China” line. But in nature, the rules haven’t changed. Most critters will eat until full, or until the supply runs low. For a lot of them, this has been the banquet summer, what with luxurious grass in pastures and a plethora of bugs.

We haven’t seen many grasshoppers this year, and I’m knocking on wood as we speak. But mosquitos had a good hatch, and the barn swallows have followed my lawn mower every round to swoop up whatever flies ahead of me.

Have you ever seen so many dragonflies? Perhaps in town they aren’t as plentiful, but out here they congregate on the north side of the house or on bushes, on hot afternoons. They land on my hands as I garden, or in my hair, when I sit on the deck. The bright blue ones are my favorites, but they are fewer than other colors. They have now replaced the swallows as escorts for the lawn mower and consequently, I have no need for mosquito repellant when doing that chore.

One night last week, shortly after moonrise, we stepped out on the deck and noted hundreds of dragonflies flitting around after mosquitoes. I never knew they would fly after dark, but I suppose when the banquet is served you show up.

We have a huge toad living on the deck, and at night time he gorges on bugs that are attracted to the light behind the sliding screen doors. We get a kick out of watching him pig out. It’s no wonder that he has gone from mid-size in early summer to big as a man’s fist now. Still, he can jump surprisingly high, considering his fat tummy.

One evening, Bruce went out the deck door, and as he left, a very large dragonfly came in. Bruce spent a good ten minutes trying to capture it and set it free outside. He finally succeeded, and I congratulated him on saving a life. But later, he went out again and came back saddened. The toad had eaten his dragonfly.

“Really?” I said. “They were almost the same size.”

“Yup. It took him quite a while.”

Over the years, we’ve had some hay hands with big appetites. My children’s father used to kid them when they came back for third helpings. “Make out your dinner,” he’d say, and they just grinned and took another scoop.

I thought of saying the same to Mr. Toad, but he already had another mouthful.

You can go ahead and say it, because it’s true. We are easily entertained around here.