Thinking about winter bees made me think of “autumn frogs” and Shelby Young, who died recently.  Once long ago, in his column in the Roane County Reporter, he told how his father had called autumn leaves skittering across the road “autumn frogs.” I often think of that when I see leaves at night in the headlights.  I wonder if it means anything now to most people.  When Shelby and I were young, crowds of tiny frogs on the road on damp spring nights or in summer rains were not uncommon.

My mother would often say that when she was young in Elkins, their front walk would be covered with thumbnail-sized frogs every time it rained, and wondered what happened to them.  I always thought it must have been a wonderful sight, and was sorry that they no longer came.  Still we often heard and sometimes saw tree frogs. Walking by any pond, pool in a creek, or the town reservoir would prompt a series of plops as the frogs along the bank jumped in.  Spring peepers were heard everywhere, even in town.  I haven’t seen a frog in the headlights for decades, nor heard a tree frog.   Last spring, just once, driving in the country in the evening, we heard a very small patch of spring peepers.

I haven’t heard a whippoorwill either, as much a part of spring and summer evenings in my childhood as the sunset. Forty-five years after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, and thirty-five after DDT was banned, we have still managed to create enough pollution and destroy enough land that even here, in our country’s most rural state, the days and nights are going silent.

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