Pet Toads

I got a letter from my brother today. He’s in prison, but moments like this in his letter let me know he’s doing OK: “[W]e caught two more toads and we kept them all in one of those large pretzel jars with some moist gravel in the bottom. Then outside at work we built a terrarium out of lexan and filled it with gravel, a plant, and a water dish. Some afternoons out at work at the powerhouse we scour the neighboring lawns and gardens and catch crickets and grasshoppers for food.” Like most large prison complexes, Jessup has its own machine shop and power plant and vegetable gardens inside the razor wire, and its own native fauna, including geese and cats in addition to the toads my brother describes. And I’m glad he and the guys on his tier have pets; that they have other living things to care for, to create an environment for and to feed. Tink and Zeugma do a lot for my mental health; I know toads aren’t quite as cuddly, but I’m psyched they’re giving him a sense of satisfaction and responsibility, however small, as an antidote to the relentless infantilization that the prison system exercises on inmates.

5 thoughts on “Pet Toads

  1. Rob

    Anything that returns even just a little bit of normalcy to one’s life is priceless in a situation like that. Think about all of the “little things” that made us happy in the military. I would hang on to even the smallest memento if it made “the ghetto” (700 block) feel a bit more like home. I’m glad to hear that your brother found that toad. Any names provided for said toad? Maybe we could start a “name that toad” thread. HA!

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  2. verbal chameleon

    Hi! Came here for the first time for the Dissertation Flail (via InsideHigherEd) and stayed.

    This is good. I have read a lot about prisons where the inmates train service dogs. I think pets do bring back some of the humanity in that inhuman space.

    The story also brought me back to when I was a kid, and my brother and I used to catch toads, crayfish, etc.

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  3. mike Post author

    VC — thanks for the praise! Yeah, my brother and I used to love to go down to the creek and catch crayfish together, too.

    Rob, I fixed the double post thing. And yeah, I remember the way both of us (and everybody else, too) would fix up our barracks rooms. Were you still in when Fritsch build that thing out of 2 x 4s that had a desk/mini-fridge study area under his bunk, which was sort of up on stilts almost to the ceiling?

    Dave didn’t tell me about any names for the toads, but I like the “name the toad” thread idea. My first proposal: well, my attorney has a cat named Bird, so why not a toad named Crow, in honor of Ted? After all, it’d be a lot better than the nicknames you and I had at Fort Stewart. (Don’t even start, now: you know you don’t want to go there :-) .)

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  4. Rob

    I guess if you can call a wet sprocket “Toad” (Toad the wet sprocket) then you could call a toad “Wet Sprocket”. However, if you are going to call a cat Bird then maybe the toad should be named “Fly” or “Cricket”. Regardless, I too will refrain from bringing Ft. Stewart nicknames into the mix. (Memories are flying in my head and making me laugh out loud).

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