Thursday, September 18, 2008

Salamander Crossing

While driving around here near our home we have come across a sign similar to your typical Deer Crossing sign that says Salamander Crossing. Actually, just north of our property is this catch-all sign:

I remember being on some road trip when I was really young and my dad pointing out a Deer Crossing sign which had a picture of a deer leaping into the air. I know it was a ploy of his to keep me focused on something other than creating utter chaos in the car, but to this day I still hope for and expect nothing less than scores of deer leaping across the road when I see those signs. I know I'm very lucky to have never actually seen leaping deer leaping, but I do enjoy seeing all the deer around here grazing quietly in the fields and woods. Just please be polite and use common sense when crossing in front my car, it's all I ask. Anyway, back to the Salamander Crossing.

I was sure the sign was a joke, but maybe not. But, you know, really. How on earth can I seriously be expected to see an itsy bitsy salamander crossing the street. Not with my eyesight! Although, this past weekend in the rain I was highly aware of all the little frogs leaping as fast as they could across the street as I sped upon them. I choose to believe I didn't hit a one of them. (I'm very good at deluding myself.) Anyway, back to the Salamander Crossing.

Frankly, until the other morning I couldn't even have told you what a salamander looked like. While waiting for the school bus, Mickey and I were tossing a Snurf football around and I nearly stepped on this little guy:

a red-spotted newt that apparently is common in these parts. I had Tom run in and get the camera and a jar to put him in and exclaimed "Show and Tell!" It was, in fact, Monday, Mickey's Show and Tell day, and I thought our discovery perfect, only, I really wasn't thinking clearly about sending a lizard in a glass jar stuffed into a wild child's backpack on a typical frenzied school bus. Luckily, the glass jar and lizard (are newts lizards?) arrived at school in one piece, but barely, apparently. We got a call from Mickey's Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Lampman, advising that Mickey strolled into her classroom with the glass jar tipping out of Mickey's unzipped backpack, threatening to fling itself onto the floor causing under chaos and confusion (my words, not hers). She went on to instruct us - I'm kind of embarrassed that she actually felt the need to instruct us - that glass jars in backpacks on school buses are not a good idea. And don't do it again. Although she appreciated the wildlife. The previous week we sent in a grasshopper for Show and Tell. And yes, in a glass jar. I wonder why Mrs. Lampman didn't feel compelled to call us with instructions on that day? We'll get it figured out one day. Honestly.

So, after I pick this salamander up and handle him and give him to Mickey to handle, I go inside and Google salamanders in Massachusetts. It seems that our salamander produces toxic skin secretions to ward off predators. Nice. Apparently I don't have to worry about the newt being poisonous as long as we can keep it out of everyone's mouths. Or is it everyone's mouth? Every mouth? Mickey's mouth.