I never realized what a racist I was until Daniel and I were in the Walmart parking lot in Trumann, Arkansas, fielding a call from a self described redneck who lived in the woods and wanted to take us out killing frogs, and I began to fear for my life. Maybe racist isn’t the correct word, as this person was not a different race than me. He was just different: He lived in a small, run down town with mostly trailers and broken down houses; most of the people were much younger than me and already had a couple of kids; and to top it all off, I had just seen Deliverance. AND, daniel had found him online from a youtube video where frogs were being caught, killed and eaten off a swamp. So this adventure was starting off on the wrong foot. Mostly, because of me.
We got the call from Nick that he was at his buddy’s house and they were just hanging out. “What the hell does that mean!?” I began freaking out imagining all the knives they were sharpening to kill us or to use threateningly to steal our money and cameras. Daniel did his best to reassure me… mostly by telling me that I was acting like a racist and needed to calm the F- down. So I just took a couple deep breaths, chose not to call my family (as their alarm would only heighten my own), and tried to find reasons for why we couldn’t go out frog catching that night. I rested on How to Train Your Dragon which was on the motel TV and caught Daniel’s attention for about 20 minutes. But before long, we got another call from Nick and had to go out.
It was really dark as we drove down the dirt road past house after house — all the same shape and size, all with a truck or four wheeler parked out front. We passed by one where a bunch of people were drinking on their front lawn, and then another with a pitbull chained outside. After a long stretch of woods, we finally got to Nick’s friend’s house. It looked like all the others, but the inside was outfitted with taxidermy of animals that they had shot, and a video of their recent duck hunt which was playing on a loop on their TV. Nick was blond, soft-spoken and in his early twenties and he introduced us to Hunter, who owned the house and was making fried catfish for us to eat. He immediately offered us something to drink. And the fact that he had stocked a 20 liter of Dr Pepper slowly chipped away at the ice in my heart (we were so similar!). But I wasnt about to let down my guard that easily.
We headed out to the river and the frog catching began. I was naive to think I wouldn’t be affected by the killing of those frogs — but the sweetness on their little faces and the intense way in which they were killed was shocking, horrifying…heartbreaking. Before long, I was crying and silently wanting off the boat — I wanted to get back to my motel and away from the reality of what happens out on that swamp. I was lost in my own thoughts when Nick’s voice broke into the silence as he quietly explained that they were doing this to feed the poor: themselves. This (and hunting and fishing) was a part of their survival.
We returned the house that night, and the question came up of how the boys learned to go frogging. Hunter has these big, sweet brown eyes — which, for a large man himself, make up a big part of who he is. He got very quiet and told me that the house we were standing in used to belong to his dad, who passed away when Hunter was 18. Everything he knows about hunting and fishing — everything he knows about cooking what he has caught — he learned from him. Hunter plans to one day teach this all to his daughter (who will be born in August and named Fallon).
Hunter’s voice was soft with a thick southern accent, and a thoughtfulness behind every word. By the end of the night, the look on his face when Daniel and Nick complimented him on his preparation of the frogs legs, is one I cannot forget: He was so proud. It is just a brief moment on the episode…and one that I rewind to see over and over again. His pride in what he learned from his dad, and what he does to sustain his life now is one that makes you take a step back and realize that everyone is just trying to survive. Everyone just wants a good life. Shame on me for being judgmental.