The Salamander Story, Part II

Thursday, June 18, 2009

By popular request (OK a request from one person - Sarah!!) here is the salamander story I referenced in this post. Before I begin, I would like to say, if you are a member of PETA, don't hold it against me. I love animals and would never hurt one on purpose. Also, I was only 10.

Here it is. The house I grew up in is in the middle of the woods, and there is a plethora of woodland creatures in its vicinity. As kids, we would catch various amphibians, and make 'homes' for them in our sandbox, including toads and salamanders. If you turned over a rock in our yard, it seemed like there was about a 1 in 3 chance of finding a salamander (a common red backed or a similar all black one). By the time I was ten, I was starting to loose interest in playing with slimy animals, but occasionally would still participate in a salamander 'race' with my younger brother Kenny. To race, each of us would catch one of the unfortunate critters, and let it run over alternating hands. Every time it climbed onto the next hand, we would bring the next hand in front, to give the salamander somewhere to run, and so on ...

This is what it looked like
before the race!

As you may know, when the tail of a salamander is handled, it can easily fall off. This is a defense mechanism in case a predator grabs the little guy by the tail. The salamander is able to run away, leaving the predator with only a tail to eat. The salamander gets the last laugh since it can then regrow a new tail. Surprisingly, in all our salamander games, I had not experienced this phenomenon before this day (do you see where this is going?). Now, Kenny and I were kneeling in the grass, near some rocks which edged the walkway to our house. We were racing salamanders when something happened to my salamander. I looked down at my hands, and saw I was holding the front of it in one hand, and the tail in the other. Really not so surprising considering what we were doing, but this is the really weird part. I have a very clear memory of what happened next. Clear enough that I believe: a) it happened or b) Mom laced my Hydrox cookies with LSD. The back legs were still attached to the tail piece!! I screamed and dropped both pieces on the ground, and BOTH pieces crawled under a rock. (The LSD in the Hydrox is looking a little more plausible, isn't it?). The sight of the back legs and tail crawling under the rock on its own is something I've never gotten out of my head and I've never touched another salamander (not even the one in my basement). My only theory is that the tail got pulled, but somehow I had found a salamander with a genetic abnormality, and too much of it fell off?

Anyway, that's the story, at least how I remember it. Kenny, if you remember it differently, please let me know!!

Bookmark and Share


Amber said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I had no idea Salamanders tails did that, either. I've never touched one. Now, I'm glad!