Froggy Went A-Courtin’

Just thought of this the other day when I was reading an historical Florida story about gigging frogs. I don’t know that it’s done much any more—haven’t heard about it in years. As is the case with many “old stories never die” entries, it might very well have made the rounds for years blamed on a wide range of characters. Frankly, the retelling of the tale, knowing the outcome, is often funnier than the original story. As I heard it in Jacksonville, it might have been Art Paradise who was the principal miscreant, although as I reflect on the story it sounds more like Mike Opalewski. Since I’m now convinced it’s likely an urban legend, I suppose factual accuracy is less important than it might otherwise be.

frog gig—without the pole

The long and the short (mostly short) of it is that some of the regulars—read country boys were making plans one day in the café to go frog gigging the next (or any) evening. Art (or Mike) had never been and worked their way into the plans. On the appointed evening, the lads, fully equipped with flashlights, gigs (look like a small trident) attached to a pole, and a bucket in an innertube, assmbled at a likely spot and made their way out into the shallows.

The procedure, as I understand it (never having gigged a frog in my life), involves wading about the shallows looking for frogs on lily pads, lighting them up to “freeze” them, and then stabbing them with the gig. Once impaled, the frog is then pulled off the gig over the lip of the bucket floating in the innertube. As I read this now, it sounds suspiciously like an aquatic snipe hunt.

I don’t recall if the bucket was communal or if each of the giggers had their own. The story is probably better if it’s communal as you’re about to see. Apparently, there was alcohol involved, as most controller activities seem to require, so while gigging percentage and bucketing accuracy were pretty good for the first while, eventually frogs became less frequent and it became successively more difficult to peel them cleanly off the gig. Naturally, the least experienced would probably lose his edge a little earlier, so we’ll blame it on that.

Ultimately (and because I can’t drag the story out any farther) Mike (or Art) slipped or stumbled or something and their loaded gig, instead of hitting the lip of the bucket, neatly pierced the inner tube floating the bucket in the water. The legend insists that all previously garnered frogs were lost in the inevitable upset, but the laws of physics suggest a much slower denoument with plenty of opportunity for rescue of the doomed…but for that attendant alcohol component.

Punishment for such a lamentable act is eternal infamy for the perpetrator—in this case, Art (or Mike).

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Last updated: 13 September 2011