Fixin Things Till They’re Broke

Fixin Things Till They’re Broke

The butterfly effect at work on one man’s childhood memories, and the unintended ecological impact of humans on the planet.

By Alan Newell McCarty | Friday, September 25, 2020

“There once was an old horny toad
Who loved red ants more than gold
He sired so many
But now there aren’t any
Their ants, they were poisoned
I’m told.”

Making The World Better, by Newell McCarty

When I was a kid, growing up in Oklahoma, red ants were everywhere. Those big ones, almost as big as a marble. I guessed they liked what people did to their yards and playgrounds. The ants knew how to cut down all the grass and stuff around their hole and it hurt like the devil if they bit you. So everyone hated them and figured out how to poison them. 

Gramps told me that bears and lions were everywhere once too but people had to poison them as well. I remember that I was glad there weren’t any bears or lions, because they ate people and was happy to see the red ants go to. One time we were stomping on ‘em and so many bit my ankle, it swelled up like a softball.

One of my best memories as a kid was catching horny toads. They were much easier to catch than other lizards or even snakes and you could rub their stomach and they’d go to sleep—close there eyes and everything. You could watch them gobble up the red ants as they marched single file like British soldiers. The big ants must have been tasty but stupid, cause they just kept comin’.  

I’m as old as Gramps now with grandkids of my own. I keep telling them to go outside and catch a horny toad and they keep telling me there aren’t any. 

I don’t understand.

The Horned Lizard, also known as horny toads or horntoads, are a genus of North American lizards and the type genus of the family Phrynosomatidae.

Alan Newell McCarty is a retired biologist who once taught students about life on planet earth. He still lives in Oklahoma with his wife Cathy and a random collection of critters and plants.

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