Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Frogs in the Pump

When we first moved to St. John in 1955 we lived for a time in a little house in Cruz Bay call The Shell. It was small. One bedroom, one bathroom, a tiny kitchen and an open porch-like living room. My sister, Erva, and I slept in a double bed in a kind of narrow hall/breezeway off the bedroom and kitchen.

In those days electricity was provided from St. Thomas only a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night. Yet we didn't lack for amenities. We had a gas stove, a kerosene refrigerator, and running water.

It's how we got that running water that's the subject of this post.

Like most houses, The Shell had a cistern for collecting rainwater. But how to get that water to the kitchen sink, the toilet and shower when we only had electricity a few hours a day? An electric pump wouldn't work.

On the flat concrete roof of The Shell there was a 55 gallon drum turned on its side and mounted in some kind of cradle so it wouldn't roll away. A rectangular hole had been cut into the top and piece of wire mesh had been placed over the hole to keep out leaves and critters. Attached to one end of the drum and connected to the cistern was an old fashioned (well now-a-days it'd be old fashioned) hand pump. The kind you see in old westerns at the kitchen sink.

Every morning it was Erva's and my job to fill up the drum. Using gravity feed, that 55 gallons usually lasted us all day.

We had to take turns pumping because our arms got tired. And it probably would have been a chore we hated except for one thing.

File:Eleutherodactylus antillensis01.jpg
E. anitillensis
Almost every morning, with the first whoosh of water, we'd flush out a few tree frogs who had found a nice moist place to spent the night.

We call them coquis, but they aren't the true coquis of Puerto Rico which get their name from the distinct CO-QUI sound they make. The "real" name for the singing tree frogs in the Virgin Islands is E. antillensis. At a little over an inch long, several could spend the night in the pump.

Erva and I took turns being the first one to pull water up into the pump and flush out the frogs. We kept count. I'd get four one day, she'd get three the next. I'd get two, she'd get five. If I recall the most  we ever flushed out was seven.

Ever used an old fashioned hand pump? How do you feel about frogs. Personally I like 'em.

Below is a little clip of the Puerto Rican coqui singing at night. Along with all the noises of other frogs, crickets, and geckos the coqui's clear voice stands out.
File:Common Coquí.jpg
Puerto Rican coqui

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