I remember catching buckets of newts on the edge of the Van Eerden’s largest pond. We separated them into male and female buckets, guessing—rightly, I recently found out—that the males had the flared tails and the females had straight, tapered ones, like the tails of a Dalmatian. We planned to establish a comprehensive spotted newt breeding program, and wouldn’t our parents be delighted when we suddenly had thousands of baby newts hidden in the back of the garage?
While we were daydreaming, Samson, that great, lumbering black lab, would stick his head in the newt bucket, like he was bobbing for apples. He’d come up with a face full of writhing newts, squirming in his white teeth. We’d squeal with terror and try to pry them out of his jaws, but he’d take a quick gulp and they were gone. From then on, we made the littlest sisters stand guard over the buckets and block Samson from any more snack attacks.
I remember the large puddle that was packed with wiggling black commas: tadpoles squirming for life. We would scoop up handfuls of them, dump them in other red buckets, and wait for them to turn into frogs. They never did. When the sun went down, we would trek to their house up that long, winding driveway, tired and content, feeling like conquerors. We hardly ever saw our parents.