By Ralph Hood

Late last week I received a package from an old friend. Inside—carefully wrapped—was an eight-inch-long green plastic frog! Gail and I must have laughed about five minutes.

More about the frog later. I want to tell you about the old friend who sent it.

In Huntsville, Ala., we lived immediately next to Polly Morton for about 20 years. She was absolutely, positively the best next-door neighbor we’ve ever had in our 50-year marriage. We moved to Erwin 10 years ago, but have never forgotten Polly.

After Polly’s husband Charles died, we walked, camped, and traveled with Polly; we drove with her and another friend to Monroeville, Ala., to see the annual play “To Kill a Mockingbird,” put on by local folk. We had a ball.

We went to movies with Polly, concerts, and out to eat a lot—specializing in cheap restaurants.

We had another friend—a surgeon—who had a cabin at the beach. He fished a lot in his boat, and even had an airplane to fly back and forth (everybody should have such a friend). He also brought us beautiful fish already cleaned and ready to eat. Gail and I weren’t skilled at cooking fresh fish, so we invited Polly—who grew up on a farm and knew about cooking anything—to join us for a fish dinner. She cooked the fish and Gail watched her every move. Teasingly, I told Polly that since she taught Gail everything about cooking fish, we wouldn’t need to invite her anymore.

Polly grinned her big, infectious grin and informed us that she hadn’t taught Gail everything! She left out the most important secrets of cooking fish. We allowed as how we might better keep inviting Polly for awhile. Then we all laughed. It was always fun laughing with Polly.

I always had trouble picking ripe cantaloupes. Gail, Polly and I were at a produce stand and I asked Polly how to tell if a cantaloupe was ripe. She said, “You hold it up to your ear and shake it.” I had the cantaloupe up to my ear when I noticed that Polly was grinning ear-to-ear. She had caught me again!

Now, let’s get back to that huge green frog Polly sent me last week.

The story started 15 or 20 years ago. Polly was sweeping her driveway when I rushed out my front door, late for an appointment. I hopped from my front step and sailed through the air when I heard an awful sound. It was kind of a loud “G R-U-M-P.” I heard that sound and saw, at the same time, a gigantic green frog as the second “G-R-U-M-P” hit me.

Y’all, as the Bible says, “I was sore afraid.” On the bottom step of my stoop sat that huge green frog. It was the biggest frog I’d ever seen! Then it gave another “G-R-U-M-P”. Polly, of course, was doubled over laughing her wonderful laugh.

I had been a pilot for many years at that time, but I proved, then and there, that one cannot fly over a monster frog without an airplane!

Well, last week Polly was cleaning house when she discovered that monster frog. She sent it to me, and Gail and I are still laughing.

Thanks, Polly, for all of those wonderful memories! We love you!

ralph@ralphhood.com