The Swinging Bridge Frog


One of my favorite places to go to is my grandma’s house. She lives in Colonia Juárez, a little town in northern Mexico. When my family visits Grandma, we get to milk the cow and play in the hay. We can go for walks up the mountain to the irrigation ditch, and we get to water the garden.

When it’s really hot, a man comes around pushing a little cart and shouting “Helados! Helados!” Helado means ice cream in Spanish, and sometimes if we’ve been good, Dad buys us some so we can cool off. There’s another man who drives an old truck with a little freezer in the back that’s full of paletas (Popsicles), and they’re the best I’ve ever tasted.

But the thing I enjoy most at Grandma’s is playing by the river. It’s usually just a little stream, but when there’s a lot of rain in the mountains, the river fills up and goes to the top of its banks and almost runs over the bridge.

When the river’s just little, my two big brothers, Alma and Aaron, take me down to the river to play. We hide in the willows, throw rocks in the water, or look for water skeeters. And sometimes, when we have permission, we walk across the swinging bridge.

Now a swinging bridge isn’t like any other bridge. You can’t drive a car over it, because it’s just for walking on. It’s made with boards on top of steel cables that stretch across the river. When you walk across the bridge, you have to hold on to the side cables because the boards move up and down and sideways. The bridge squeaks a lot, too, when it moves. When you get out in the middle of the bridge, it’s real scary because the bridge is moving and the water is way down below.

My brothers and I like to hold hands as we walk across the swinging bridge. We laugh when it sways back and forth and bounces up and down and tickles our tummies.

The first summer I can remember spending with Grandma, I played so hard that I was glad to go to bed at night. But the first night I couldn’t go to sleep. There was an awful noise coming from the river. It sounded like a whole bunch of people screaming. I didn’t know what to do. I was scared!

I asked Alma what the noise was, and he and Aaron laughed. They said it was just frogs croaking their heads off. Well, I’d heard frogs before, but I didn’t know they could make such an awful noise. I was still scared, and I started to cry. I cried until my dad came in to see what was wrong.

Dad lay down by me and told me that it was just the frogs. He told me not to be afraid, but I was still scared, and I said I didn’t want to stay in Mexico anymore. I wanted to go back home to my own bed where there weren’t any frogs screaming outside my window.

Dad and Mom let me sleep with them that night. Their room is on the other side of the house, and I couldn’t hear the screaming over there. When Dad put me in their bed, he asked me if I’d said my prayers. Well, I hadn’t because I’d been so tired that I’d forgotten all about my prayers. I knelt down by my dad and asked Heavenly Father to help me to not be afraid. After that I went right to sleep.

In the morning I’d forgotten all about the frogs, because they don’t scream in the daytime. The first thing I wanted to do was to go down to the swinging bridge. We went down there and were walking across the bridge when we saw two boys below us, catching things by the river. They had just put something into a can when they heard the paleta truck coming. They dropped their can and ran up the road to meet the truck.

I wanted to know what they’d put in their can, so I ran the rest of the way across the bridge and down to where they’d dropped the can. Lying in the dust, all dirty and dry, was a little frog. It was breathing hard, and it looked like it might die. I picked it up and took it back to the river and washed it off. Then I put it in a can of water with some moss and rocks in the bottom. I decided to call the frog Wilbur.

I took Wilbur back to the house to show my mom and dad and grandma. When I told Dad that I was going to take Wilbur home to Arizona with me, he said that Wilbur would be happier in the river by the swinging bridge because that was his home.

“You know, Janet,” my dad said, “Wilbur is one of the frogs that was singing last night.”

“Singing? That didn’t sound like singing to me.”

“That’s how frogs sing,” Dad said. “They sit down by the river and wait for mosquitoes and fat flies to go by. Then they stick out their long sticky tongues and catch those flies and mosquitoes for their supper. When they’re full, they sing because they’re so happy.”

“Will Wilbur sing for me?”

“If you put him in the river where he’s happy. He isn’t very happy in a little can of water.”

Well, I didn’t want to let Wilbur go, but I wanted him to be happy. So I let him loose by the river, under the swinging bridge, and he hopped away.

That night I could hardly wait to go to bed. I wasn’t tired. I just wanted to listen to the frogs sing. I wanted to listen real hard and see if I could hear Wilbur singing.

Dad came to tuck me in and asked if I was still afraid of the frogs. I shook my head and smiled and said, “Not anymore. I like to hear the frogs sing now. I’m listening to see if I can hear Wilbur.”

He smiled and said, “Heavenly Father answered your prayer.”

“How did He do that?” I asked.

“Well, you asked Him to help you to not be afraid. He helped you find Wilbur, and if you hadn’t found Wilbur and seen what was making all that noise, you might still be afraid.”

I could see that Dad was right. I knelt by my bed and thanked Heavenly Father for Wilbur and for all of the other frogs that were singing by the river. As I was saying my prayers, I thought I heard Wilbur singing best of all.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer