Rolley Len and Cason are at that stage where they really want to help around the house. Even though Cason is only 2 years old, he still tries to sweep, vacuum, put away laundry and dishes, and he is getting pretty good at putting away his toys. Besides cleaning, Rolley Len really wants to be a "cooker" and consistently volunteers herself for kitchen duty. However, the busier we get as parents, the easier it is to tell our small kids "No, I’ll do it" or "No, let’s not make a mess." Because they are still little, Jason and I sometimes have to be creative to help the kids feel they are making a meaningful contribution to the family. We hope, by trying to encourage them to feel connected to their family and their home, it will motivate them to be responsible, grounded and capable adults.
Raising children who actually desire to be helpful to us and our family is definitely something we want to cultivate. Rolley Len loves going with Jason to hunt, but much to her disappointment, he cannot take the kids with him yet when he goes fishing at night. Just because they can’t go doesn’t mean that Rolley Len and Cason can’t be a big part of his expedition. Before Jason goes fishing, he loads the kids, and sometimes me, into his truck and checks trees for Catawba worms throughout the neighborhood. Cason tries to help Daddy shake the bait worms out of the trees and then both kids jump around trying to find them all before they crawl away.
As Jason packs his fishing supplies, he always shows Rolley Len and Cason the worms they helped gather telling the kids he will be using them to catch the next day’s lunch or supper. When he returns, they love to see all the catfish he caught using their worms. Besides tangibly showing Rolley Len and Cason how they are participating in and contributing to family meals, gathering the Catawba worms and checking out the night’s haul also teach them about science and the food chain. For example, in Jason’s last catch, he found a whole bream that had swallowed a bait worm that was then swallowed by an appaloosa catfish. Hunting and fishing create spontaneous authentic learning moments for children that are hard to replicate in a classroom.
As the children get older, one outdoor activity Jason plans to share with them is frog gigging. It would be hard to routinely feed your family on frog legs because of the large number of frogs you would actually have to gig depending on the size of the frog. While some may provide more meat than a chicken wing, you would still need a good number of pairs to satisfy a hungry adult. Frog populations have dropped in our area so the legs would likely be more of a supplement to a fish supper rather than the main dish. Because you can’t rely on frog legs alone, gigging is now more of a pastime sport. Since there is no pressure to collect dozens of frogs, it can be a fun way to spend time with your family while also bringing home a delicious treat.
Frog gigging is another one of those activities you don’t have to spend a lot of money on. You will need a gig, a bright light and a container or sack to put your frogs in. Although you can now even buy gigs online, you can use the resources you have on hand. Jason made a gig with a bamboo pole. He sharpened welding rods into prongs and used baling wire to tie it to the pole. Many people use headlights to keep their hands free. Jason used a headlight and a million-watt spotlight attached to a pole with alligator clips and powered by a car battery. To bring your frogs home, you can use pretty much anything from a cooler to a plastic grocery bag. As long as it is leak proof, use whatever is cheapest and easiest for you.
While most people go frog gigging on small johnboats, you can go on foot. Whether on a boat in a lake or on foot at a pond, if you go into a marshy area at night, you definitely need to be extra vigilant about snakes. Using a longer pole to spear the frogs will help keep you safer. Always expect the unexpected and take extra equipment just in case you need it. If you slip and drop your gig or flashlight into the water, your night of fun may have to end prematurely and you might go home empty-handed.
The last time Jason went frog gigging was in college on a golf course. Snakes and other predators have thinned the number of bullfrogs in our area over the years. Jason said, when he was younger, he used to hear what sounded like hundreds of bullfrogs in the pond, but now there are hardly any left around here. Sometimes you can go from pond to pond listening, but never hear the deep bellow of the bullfrog.
That is what makes frog gigging a perfect way to share experiences with your children. You will be spending time with each other while using all your senses to get to know your landscape as well. By taking your children with you as you hunt or fish, they will see the effort necessary to contribute to your family’s next meal and you will create irreplaceable memories.
*If you decide you like them, but have a hard time finding your own bullfrogs in your area, you can buy frog legs wholesale in large quantities. Also, some fish and barbecue restaurants serve them regularly throughout the South.
How to cook frog legs:
Soak the frog legs in a bowl of buttermilk for about two hours in the refrigerator. Dredge the legs in flour, salt and pepper as you would chicken. Add Creole or Cajun seasoning if more flavor is desired. Fry in a deep fat fryer and drain on paper towels.
Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.