Norman…

I’ve always had a fondness for turtles and frogs. We had box turtles as pets when we were growing up. I think at one point there were 12 or 13 of them and they lived in the yard of our first house.

In 1970 I found a toad, brought him home and named him Norman.

I’m pretty sure the name choice was influenced by Norman Greenbaum and his song, “Spirit in the Sky” – I liked it then and I like it now.

Lg Plush

Norman the toad adapted fairly well to life as a pet.  He wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, but I didn’t have the pet options available to be choosy at that point, since we were not permitted to have traditional pets like a cat or dog.  Norman was welcomed however, and my Dad made him a pretty cool habitat with a built-in pond and a nicely fitted screen lid…all top shelf (my Dad was a good craftsman – very meticulous).  Anyway, I can’t remember exactly how long I had Norman but it was for a year give or take a month – summer to summer.

Initially, I fed him flies.  Frogs & toads eat moving insects, so you had to have a pretty light touch to swat a fly, but not completely kill it and most of the time, I was not successful.  Since I was generally overzealous with the swatting, I decided to try gently blowing on the deceased fly to make it move.  Norman fell for this – the slightest movement was enough to make his curled, lightning fast tongue zap up the fly.  Not sure why, but one day I rolled up a small piece of chocolate cake from of one of my favorite snacks, a Drake’s Devil Dog and made that move as well – Norman ate it.  This opened up many new menu options.  As it turned out, Norman wasn’t that picky…he would eat just about anything, within reason, that moved I did try to feed him good things – not just cake.  His diet didn’t seem to be doing him any harm, he seemed to be a healthy toad.

(Please, let it be noted that I don’t condone or recommend taking animals from the wild anymore, or feeding cake to amphibians. Norman’s survival was clearly the exception).

I asked my Mom to crochet him a harness for walks outside.  She did her best to make something with two loops that went around his front legs and attached to a long yarn chain that I could hold to “walk” him.  She later told me she watched me, patiently trying to get him to walk with the harness.  She said just one hop and he would be out of the harness, but that I would put it on over and over again only to have the same result.  This was out on the sidewalk in front of our house!  I wish I could ask my Mom now if she was at all concerned at this point….I know I would have been. 

Norman tried to hibernate like any toad would come the fall, attempting to burrow into the shallow soil of his habitat.  I’m sure the temperature and other conditions were not conducive to hibernation.  He was living in the house at the time and in addition to the other conditions, I just wouldn’t give him the peace to enter in to this long seasonal sleep…he was my pet.  Norman actually survived all of this “love” and lived to see the next spring, where it was decided – at the strong urging of my parents, that once the weather warmed up, I should release him back to the ”wild” with the rest of the toads.

So, that summer on a trip to Washington’s Crossing Park, I took my lumpy, cool skinned pet to what I felt was a fairly secluded spot near the river and said my good-byes.  Norman had been a good companion.

When I decided to include Norman in this, I knew I had to locate the only existing picture of him and post it, even though it is really a laughable picture (of me) – I figured I’d take the hit for Norman.  The picture was hard to locate – I find I lose more things as I get older.  My brother actually had the picture for a while, along with some of the old family photos.  I got it back from him a few years ago, then I misplaced it.  Anyway, I finally found it again.  On the back, I had carefully titled the picture – Me and Norman, and included my full name, address and the date of the instant photo.

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Once I saw the date, I knew my parents weren’t making habitats and harnesses for a toad that summer, and that the photo was taken just prior to Norman’s liberation.  I must have wanted to have a picture so I could remember him.  It was dated June 22, 1971 and just five days later, my older brother would die unexpectedly at the age of 20.  My brother’s passing had a major impact on the entire family.  It was as if you were traveling along on a train and suddenly somebody throws the switch and boom – you are on a different track with the change being almost too fast for the machine to handle and you are afraid it will derail.  I sometimes wonder what the ride would have been like on the first track.  Seeing the date on the photo really brought back a lot of the memories that I didn’t expect.

But back to Norman…he is likely the reason I’ve collected frog items over the years (it seems there are less toad things than frog things, but I never got that technical).

Frogs and toads have never lost their appeal and I felt really lucky a few summers ago to have some green tree frogs take up residence around the back of our house.  I tried not to bother them as much as I bothered Norman, but I did take a lot pictures of them!

I still can’t resist a frog that appeals to me in some way. There seems to be no particular set of standards when it comes to collecting frogs, they can be anything “froggy”. Plush toys, ceramic items, jewelry, tableware and much more – this is a collection that continues to grow.

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Love this guy!
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Glass frogs

Some Christmas frogs…

Many frogs are just whimsical. like these Frog Footmen from Alice in Wonderland…

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Or this group of shell musicians!

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Happy coin purse!

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Funny frog doll…

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Key wound jumping from (from 3rd grade) and a frog clicker…

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Still more…

 

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Frogs from around the house gathered for a picture – Tonala pottery, glazed pottery, and more.

 

Click pictures below for descriptions…

Frog themed jewelry…

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Yes, still more!

Sun catchers

Click photos for descriptions below.

This one is a really neat leather artist-made frog from the 1980’s

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Some porcelain figures and trinket boxes…

I’ve had this for a long time…purchased from a mail-order catalog late 1980’s or early 1990’s.  It’s a Majolica styled glaze on a toad house!  Supposedly you can put these outside and toads will live in them.  This one has been indoors.

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I love these crazy figures, found in an antique shop!

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I can say with authority, that there are a lot of frog items available.

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Norman has certainly inspired a vast collection, spanning decades!

Author: Collected

Recollections and reflections on a life time of collecting.

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