of Big Santa Anita Canyon

I was inspired to write this story after visiting Big Santa Anita Canyon on a spring day and observing a group of young children playing with forest critters.

   In a forest not far from the city lived many creatures. The creatures moved about freely, after all this was their home. Birds flew and sang out their beautiful music and all who listened were enchanted. On one such day a handsome young man was walking on a well maintained trail taking in the beauty of the forest and listening to the singing birds. He was so mesmerized by the singing birds that he stumbled on a rock and fell from the trail onto a miniature village of very rare magical mushrooms crushing them badly. This really angered the mushrooms. Many times in the past they had been uprooted, broken and crushed by careless people and vowed to get even. This time they were prepared. When the handsome young man fell on them they burst out toxic spores of magic that filled the air around their village to be absorbed in the lungs of any human in the vicinity of the tiny village. The spores would cause a biological change, enough to turn a mushroom violator into a frog. It is not that mushrooms thought less of frogs. On the contrary frogs were their greatest allies. It is just safer to have a frog sleep under you than be stepped on by a human. So the young man was turned into a frog. “Unfortunately the mushroom village was beyond repair”.
    The young man was quite dazed after all it is a shock to ones system to become an amphibian in the blink of an eye. The frog feeling dehydrated hopped over to a nearby stream as he bent his head he caught a reflection of himself. “Oh my God is that me? I am so ugly! And check out this tongue” The frog began to cry uncontrollably. This went on for some time and eventually the poor frog exhausted himself. Feeling tired he sought refuge under a cluster of mushrooms growing nearby. He slept for hours and did not wake until the next morning.
    The sun rose early to greet the new day. The frog feeling the warm rays awoke. He was very hungry and hadn’t eaten since the pervious afternoon. He had a yearning for something with wings. “Yuck” he thought, just yesterday I would have been happy with a bowl of cereal. Of course I would have thrown it out if it had a fly in it but today I would throw the cereal away and eat the fly. He pondered this for awhile but became distracted when a fly landed very close. His mouth began to water as he tried to fight off the urge to gobble it down. He could no longer fight he had to have the fly. Taking careful aim he very quickly unraveled his tongue and snatched up the fly. Being once human just the day before the frog understood what a fly eats and how it eats but he was hungry and felt justified so he ate another fly and a couple more just incase.
    After eating such a large breakfast the frog felt a bit “fly drunk” and thought he might rest a bit. This gave him ample time to think about his dilemma. I am a frog and I don’t know why? I would like to be the young carefree handsome man I was yesterday. When I am restored I will tell nobody about what I just ate. The birds were still singing and the world was still turning and as long as that didn’t change wishes could come true even for a frog. Suddenly the frog felt a dark shadow come over his little frog body. The darkness covered his eyes and crushed him making it hard to breath. He felt himself being lifted and then was let go. His body fell with a thud right into the bottom of a metal bucket. Echoing voices and laughter of children could be heard above.
    The frog was terrified and with good cause. He realized that he was now captured and his captors were mere children. The frog once a child, knew he could be in grave danger. The children who were camping with their parents in the forest were wandering about unsupervised. The savvy creatures know to run for their lives and are rarely caught. Unfortunately some small creatures don’t have fast legs or wings and are almost always the ones that end up in buckets and jars. The terrified frog was now going to go camping with a family he didn’t know. He wasn’t going to get to play cards or dominos and they probably wouldn’t feed him either. The frog who was once human was now going to get what we call “shoe on the other foot” or something close to that.
    The frog felt that he must do everything in his power to escape. Little chubby fingers were poking at him. He tried to play dead but in doing so it only brought him torture. They would pinch his little frog hands and flick him in the head with their fingers. He finally decided he would give them what they wanted and they might like him enough to let him go. He prayed that the children’s parents would intervene and save him but he was the entertainment that kept the children from bothering the parents. “He was the sacrifice to the Gods that keep children out of their parent’s hair”. The frog leaped and hopped to the children’s commands. He was dunked in a bucket of water several times it’s no wonder he didn’t drown. He was dropped many times and tried to hop away only to be tackled and squished. The frog had several gashes and red blood was trickling from his brow. It was another child’s turn to hold the frog and he was throwing a tantrum about it. The older child was teasing him. At this point the parents were upset and intervened finally! OH THANKYOU GOD! The frog thought. To the frog’s amazement the only intervention was, “It’s your brother’s turn to hold the frog now you give it to him”. Well this angered the older boy so much that he threw the frog at the younger one. The frog went sailing into the little boy’s stomach and bounced off onto the ground. The little boy started to cry even louder. The frog was unconscious. The mother was so angry that she stomped over to the little boy and told him to stop throwing a tantrum or he would be punished. She then yelled at the older boy and told him to stop teasing his brother. In the process she had stepped on the frog crushing his legs.
    The mother then decided it was now time to take pity on the creature so she ordered the older boy to, “Put the thing back where he got it!”  The beaten broken frog was tossed back into the bucket and hastily dumped at the side of the stream. The frog managed to crawl using only his upper body under a mushroom for protection. He now realized what a fragile state he was in. He was hurt all over. The frog slept and as he slept he had a dream. The frog dreamt that he would be woken by a kiss from a kind and caring stranger. The kiss would restore him to his original form.
    The handsome young man awoke to find a large yellow dog drooling on his face. The mushroom was correct he was restored to his original form by a caring stranger. The dog was being semi restrained by a young woman holding its leash. She pulled the dog back farther to give the young man a chance to catch his wits. “I’m sorry” she said, “I have a rough time holding him as he is so big!” To her the young man looked like he was badly beaten. I’ll get some help!” She said, as she quickly turned and ran off with her dog. Before the young man could speak she was gone. He tried to get up from where he was laying but couldn’t move his legs. When he tried to sit up he noticed he had blood trickling from his forehead. The young man was grateful to no longer be a frog but his wounds and the loss of his frog legs were keeping him from jumping for joy. He thought it best to lie down and stay still until help came. (Later at the hospital he would find out that he had a broken femur a dislocated hip some fractured ribs and multiple lacerations that would require stitches)
    The young woman finally returned to him and assured him that search and rescue would arrive shortly. She asked if he was comfortable and if he knew what caused his wounds. He told her as briefly as possible what happened but she could only conclude that he must be delirious because of his fragile condition and must have fallen from the hillside above where he now lay. When search and rescue finally arrived she told them his story and her conclusion and they too felt the same way. One man from search and rescue jokingly inquired if the young man may have eaten the mushrooms that are known to grow on the trails edge.
    Later the young man recovered and was returned home to his loving family. He was still in his leg cast that was signed by the young woman. On it she wrote, “Stay off the Mushrooms and Be Kind to Frogs” He laughed to himself as he read it. He vowed to himself to always respect the forest critters and one day when he married he would teach his own children to do the same!!
Jackie Gibson
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