Wildlife (Wild! Life!) Aquarium

Maybe 15 years ago my son Vince and I were taking a nature walk in the spring time, and I decided that “we” would make ourselves a local-wildlife aquarium. “We” were going to create a teachable moment! Vince said something like, “Okay.”

I scooped up about two gallons of Southeast Michigan pond water and poured it into an aquarium. I set the tank on a ledge in our garage. The pond water contained some green things, some brown things, and some things that looked like rice. (We didn’t have internet then, so I have no idea.) Here is what I’m sure of: there were minnows, tadpoles, and crayfish. (Or “crawfish” if you’re from elsewhere.)

I watched the aquarium every day. The minnows swam, the tadpoles wriggled, and the crayfish… I don’t know what the crayfish were doing. In retrospect, I guess they were lying in wait.

I was enchanted. I pointed out fins and gills and claws to my educationally-hungry child, and he said, “Okay.”

It was springtime, so eventually the tadpoles did what tadpoles do: they sprouted. Here’s what you might not know: tadpoles always pop their back legs out first. And they are so cute! I showed my son. I said, “Isn’t nature beautiful? This here is the meaning of life. Wait ‘til you see what happens next!” He said, “Okay.”

The crayfish began to vibrate and ascend. They ninja-swam their way up from the bottom of the tank, and snapped the back legs off the tadpoles. I blinked. The tadpoles did not. (No eyelids.)

And the tadpoles, being the warriors that they were, kept trying. (To morph, not to blink.) They would think real hard with their eyes open (you remember why), then they would sprout new back legs. Pop! And the crayfish would, you guessed it, not blink either. Oh, snap.

This happened over and over again. The crayfish kept snapping the legs off the tadpoles, then diving to the bottom to  eat their nibbles and gloat. (“Nibbles and Gloat” sounds like a band name from the 80s.) The tadpoles never turned into frogs or toads or princes. (I don’t know. No internet, remember?) It was my obligation as an educator to show my baby boy the killing fields, and he said, “HAHAHA!” See? We all learned something.

Anyway, the point of the story is that tadpole nubbins should be eaten fresh. Try them with a side of irony.


Erin Waugh – “True Stories Told in the Key of E-flat”
4 April 2017