For an illustrated version, see The Environmentor vol 6 no 6 pp 17-18


A country boy had a girlfriend who lived on the other side of a lake that was surrounded by marsh land. 

Usually he walked the long way around the lake when he wanted to visit her. But one lovely full moon night in summer, he was in a hurry and decided to take a short cut by going directly through the marsh.

He heard the smallest frogs calling, “Wade in! Wade in!” So he took off his boots and socks and stepped into the marsh, carrying his boots to keep them dry.

As he waded further, he heard “Ankle deep! Ankle deep!” Yes, the water was welling up over his feet.

Middle sized frogs called “Knee deep! Knee deep!” He rolled up his pants legs. The muddy bottom sucked at his bare feet. 

The water got deeper and deeper as he went across. Pretty soon he was up to his waist, struggling to keep his boots dry overhead! The bull frogs started calling, “Better go round. Better go round.”

Not knowing how much deeper it might get, he followed the bull frogs' advice and struggled back out of the marsh, covered with malodorous mud. He headed home for a bath and didn't see his girlfriend until the next evening. “I just wish the bull frogs had started calling before I stepped into that marsh!”


It's fun to tell this story with help from the audience to create a chorus of frog calls.

Then you can explain the difference between a marsh (herbacious, often adjacent to lakes) and a swamp (forested, often along rivers). Both are wetlands, but have different vegetation and therefore offer different animal habitats.


This summer, when we are guests in animals' wetland habitats, we need to be very careful about what we might carry from one place to another. The mud from marshes, swamps, and lakes isn't just dirty and sometimes smelly -- it might carry diseases that can be deadly to the animals that live there.

Frogs and salamanders are amphibians: they lay their eggs in water and have to keep their skins damp even after they have developed from tadpoles to air-breathing adults. Both of them can be killed by a ranavirus and a fungus disease called Chytrid. The virus and the fungus have been found in many Oklahoma wetlands, especially in south and southeast Oklahoma.
When we visit a marsh or swamp where amphibians are infected with rana or Chytrid, our shoes (and rubber waders, and boats, and fishing equipment) may pick up some of those disease organisms. They won't make us sick, but we run the risk of spreading them to a new wetland if we don't carefully disinfect our gear first.

What can we do? The Oklahoma Wildlife Department recommends drying everything in the hot sun for at least day, and/or spraying them with a 10% solution of bleach.

We don't want to our frogs and salamanders to die of diseases we could spread when we carelessly wade into their habitats!


Folktale source: based on J 1919.2.1 African American (Courlander, Harris) Frogs call “knee deep,” man wades into river and finds it's a lot deeper. Margaret Read MacDonald heard it from her grandfather and, in his honor, calls it “Parley Garfield and the Frogs” (pp 52-56 in Twenty Tellable Tales, H.W.Wilson 1986)

Fact source: The Wildlife Department and the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History have been tracking ranavirus and Chytrid in 36 of Oklahoma's conservation areas.