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My Pet Tadpole

When I was a kid, there were several creeks that ran through our neighborhood, all offshoots of the Trinity River system, as are most bodies of water in the Dallas area. The school district's environmental center was next door to my elementary school. Lots of nature around. Weathered creek beds, diverse wildlife. I remember on a trip to the environmental center, we dissected owl pellets. It was fascinating to see the evidence of what they'd eaten, maybe bits and pieces of partially digested rodents. Fascinating, of course, until it dawned on me what "pellet" meant.

One time I was playing down in one of these creeks, climbing over tree roots protruding from the dirt that had worn down into what, to a kid, was a miniature valley as interesting as the Grand Canyon. Things lived in that water, but it was rare to actually see anything other than leaves or maybe the occasional piece of litter. But on this day, I found a tadpole - little thing that looked something like a worm but sturdier, stronger. It was rutting around in a shallow patch, and I was overwhelmed by the idea of watching it turn into a frog. I had to get this thing home and take care of it. I wasn't interested in a pet frog - I would let it go as soon as it started sprouting legs. That was what I wanted to see.

I don't remember exactly how, but I collected the little tadpole and got it back to my house. I had an old fishbowl, which I filled with water and then released my new little pet into its new home. I fed it - don't remember what I used for food. I cleaned out its water. I would peer at it every morning before school, looking for a leg, a finger, a knuckle - something. I watched it for weeks and didn't see any change. The more time passed, the less interested I was in waiting for its metamorphosis.

At some point I mentioned to my father that I was keeping a tadpole in my room, and he wanted to have a look at it. I knew he wouldn't be able to do anything to hasten the process, but when you're a kid, you figure if you can't get something to work, you tell an adult. I took my dad into my room and showed him my fishbowl with the little thing slithering around. He adjusted his glasses and said, "That's not a tadpole."

I took the bowl and, defeated, dumped it all into the toilet and flushed.

And that's the story of my pet leech.

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