Sunday, November 22, 2009

Massacre at Mary Smokes Creek — Carl Hiaasen, we love you!



I've previously commented on the ugly, poisonous brutes called 'Cane Toads'. If you haven't read the blog, it would be a good idea to do so, because sometimes life does play rather off-color jokes. You can take the following as a metaphor for a lot of things, but I'll leave it up to you. No particular meanings are implied. But you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

I have developed the most humane killing method I can think of, which transports the creatures from the land of the living to that of the dead with alacrity. I must confess that the idea was brought to me by that famous fairy tale The Frog Prince, wherein the spoilt princess tries to dispose of the pesky frog by throwing it against a wall—not by kissing it, as the sanitized versions would have it!

Well, I am no princess, and I don't throw the beasties against walls, but usually, with significant force, on hard ground or against a concrete water tank. They have yet to turn into anything but splayed out toad-Jesuses, with limbs spread out from the final neural shock of the fatal impact—and maybe the similarity with the crucified one lacks in conviction because the rear legs are spread out just as much as the front ones. You gotta do it hard though, because these blighters are tough. A princess, especially a spoilt one, would probably not even make a dent.

Anyway, so I thought I had my relationship with Cane Toads all worked out (I see 'em; I kill 'em)—until today, when I walked down to our 'dam'—which is what they call the water-collection ponds that dot the countryside around here. Ours is more than 150 sqm, and I was going down there to plant some Irises. The level of the water, after months of very little rain is rather low, with the vegetation verge well away from the water's edge.

What I found at the pond induced a moment of what was almost panic.

This is a tiny section of the pond's rim, and the objects you see are thumbnail-size Cane Toadlets. I estimated there to be something like 2000, give or take 1000. They saw me come and leapt into the water in a tiny-toad kind of Mexican Wave, swam out for maybe 0.5 metres, then returned to the shore. Our newly-introduced Water Lilys were covered with them, to the extent that the leaves were submerged like overloaded refugee boats.

I looked at this and my brain had something like a metaphor-explosion going on inside it.

W—T—F ???

I tried to calm down and work out how to deal with this. Scenarios ranged from beating the shits out of them with a spade (yeah, like that would make a dent!) to pouring petrol over them (too expensive and poisonous) and finally, as my wife suggested, scooping them up with a fishnet or something (very difficult, since the things were mostly on land).

More metaphor moments. Was there really a deeper message in this for me? For all of us? Were these tiny f---ers a sign from a morbid deity of some sort? How can you kill a few thousand of these things and not pollute the pond; or spend the rest of your days chasing them down?

Victory by numbers. Victory by exhaustion. The devils! The devils!

We are so screwed!

Salvation did come though, because I knew there had to be a way. Damn it, I'm a human being and I have a brain larger than the mass of all these little f---ers put together! Am I going to be licked by a few thousand little toads?

Not me, chickadee. A solution came; one so ingenious, original and, let's face it, completely and utterly sick-in-the-head, that Carl Hiaasen would have been truly proud of me. (Hell, I am proud of me!) The key words here are 'Chemo' and 'weed-whacker'—the latter known in Australia as a 'whipper-snipper'.

Hiaasen fans will instantly make the connection, and they would have watched in awe as I, representing humankind, accomplished the impossible. My 2-stroke Ryobi weed-whacker was a dealer of death, such as Cane Toad-kind has never seen before. Within less than 15 minutes the phalanx of (living) tiny toads had been reduced to a few hundred max—and those will experience the wrath of the weed-whacker-wielding-human tomorrow morning. In the heat of the day (35+ºC) the whirling blades delivered judgment day.

I even caught, quite by accident, one of their progenitors, who leapt forth from a clump of grass and was caught in the whirling nylon-of-death, with limbs and bits and pieces flying here and there and everywhere, mingling with the corpses of its offspring, which were floating in the water—in the characteristic kind-of-toad-Jesus pose, of course.

A swimming insect—a larva of some kind, I guess—swam past and dragged one of the tiny corpses into the depths of the murky water. I guess somebody will be having a feast right now.

So, peoples, here's a great way to start solving the Cane Toad problem. About this time of year, everybody in the vicinity of a dam or pond take your 2-stroke weed-whacker and deliver some serious Armageddon to Cane Toad-dom. Within 15 minutes I removed about 2000 of them from circulation. Think of the potential here! It's so much easier to get them this way than having to do the spoilt-princess thing with them—which I'll be doing, I guess, on a regular basis for as long as I live around here.

The sale of 2-stroke—as opposed to electrical—weed-whackers should skyrocket, too. But that's just a fringe benefit.

On a cheerier note, here's a pic of one of our resident Green Treefrogs.

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