The Fact of the Matter Is. . .
From the Files of Gustavus Historical Archives & Antiquities (GHAA)
www.GustavusHistory.org - by Lee & Linda Parker
Q - Overheard from the mouth of a Gustavus child just the other day…”There are no frogs in Alaska!” Then looking around to see who might object…”Not in the winter, anyway. Well, are there?” he demanded…
It reminded me of something I found in an old box of homesteader’s things a while back. The collection undoubtedly contained some of the music sung at Strawberry Point’s “bang outs” in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Songs that stretched the imagination and brought wide-eyed enjoyment to children and adults alike—especially on long, blustery and cold wintry nights. But first, about the frogs…
A - Yes, there are frogs in Alaska—frozen frogs, that is! Not so many of them, and not so many different kinds—but frogs, absolutely “Yes!”. There are several frog species (not to be confused with toads), but we are going to discuss a funny little frog called a “wood frog”. The wood frog (if you are lucky enough to see one) is found along mainland river valleys in Southeast Alaska and has been spotted near Dry Bay. This little frog has a dark, triangular patch behind the eye and a light stripe down its back. The females can lay a cluster of eggs the size of a softball as soon as ponds thaw out in the spring. The males make a loud, duck-like quack—perhaps to confuse us as to who or what they really are. Baby wood frogs have to grow from egg, to tadpole, to adult frog in rapid succession before freeze-up. The adult frog hibernates safe and sound under the forest moss and snow. But, are they warm under there? Not at all! They survive the long Alaskan winters in a virtual frozen state with no heartbeat, no circulation, and no breathing or muscle movement. When they thaw out (literally), the heartbeat resumes and once again they move about and do whatever frogs do. This suspended state is thought to be possible due to a magical intracellular antifreeze substance that protects them from a frozen death.
Well, enough about frogs, what was it GHAA found?
What we uncovered was a wonderful old song called “The Frog’s Good-Bye”—a song that, despite all the details above, will tell us all we really need to know. And so, GHAA has a holiday gift for all Gustavus girls and boys. It requires the adults in their lives to sing and teach them a little song—maybe for a non-traditional treat Christmas Eve night. So, gather around and imagine many years ago by lantern light and guitars strumming, the community fun and laughter in this faraway place called Strawberry Point. For simplicity, sing to the tune of the familiar Christmas carol “Away in the Manger”. Here it is…The Frog’s Good-Bye, authored by Mary S. Conrade and copyrighted 1899 by A. Flannagan, Publisher:
The Frog’s Good-Bye
Good-bye lit-tle chil-dren, I’m going a-way
In my snug lit-tle home all the win-ter to stay;
I sel-dom get up, once I’m tucked in my bed,
And as it grows cold-er I cov-er my head.
I sleep ver-y qui-et-ly all win-ter thro’,
And real-ly en-joy it! There’s noth-ing to do.
The flies are all gone, so there’s noth-ing to eat,
And I then take this time to en-joy a good sleep.
My bed is a nice lit-tle hole in the ground, Where,
Snug as a bug, in the win-ter I’m found;
You might think not eat-ing would make me grow thin,
But no! I stay plump, just as when I go in.
And now, lit-tle chil-dren, good-bye, one and all;
Some warm day next spring I shall give you a call;
I’m quite sure to know when to get out of bed,
When I feel the warm sun shin-ing down on my head.
And from GHAA, to all a good-night!