Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.

A loud crack of thunder was followed by several more deep booms. The sky grew darker and it began — rain, glorious rain. When it tapped on the pane I slid the window open and welcomed it like a favored guest. I wanted to hear it drumming on the sidewalk, pinging off metal and splashing from the downspout.   It had been a long time since we’d heard that music.

We love the rain. On a rainy day we don’t stay in, we go out! Rain makes us smile and want to quack out loud.  

Our first thought was, “Grab your board!” Then we pictured the pollution and bacteria from the storm runoff flowing into the Santa Monica Bay. That vivid image quickly moved us on to plan b.

When we saw the big puddles forming and little rivers running along the curb, we decided a walk in the rain could be almost as much fun as surfing.

Rambling down the street Rusty stopped to make boats from fallen leaves equipping each with a crew made from blades of grass before launching them down the “rivers.” Richard and I dedicated ourselves to jumping in all puddles as we splashed our way through the neighborhood.

Our long, meandering path eventually brought us to the beach. We found fiercely powerful, 8 to10 foot waves building. Line after line of waves roared toward the shore raging, flinging spray and foam high into the air as they traveled. Breaking, they covered the sand with great sheets of white water and mounds of foam. A strong rip current would momentarily interrupt the wave pattern as it sucked water and sand back out to sea. We stared mesmerized by the scene until Rusty shouted over the noise of the waves, “Mmm. That looks tasty. How about stopping for a latte with extra foam on the way home?”

We took the long way home so we could pass by one of Great Grandpa Quackers favorite old spots. It had been a very special place. He had found it one day at the far edge of the golf course between Dewey and Rose. He said when the first good rain came it would turn into a tiny wetland with an elongated pond that seemed to magically fill with scores of wiggling tadpoles. Once that happened, he and Great Grandma Quacker would round up all the kids, hike over and spend the day. It was often so pleasant they would end up camping overnight. They would roast marshmallows and listen to frog songs far into the night before finally drifting off to sleep.

That special place is long gone, replaced by a drainage ditch.

Thinking of Great Grandpa Quacker’s story made us happy. That we would never experience the special place made us sad.

To take our minds off the sadness I decided to tell a true story about the mountain yellow-legged frog of the California sierras that in a way reminded me of Great Grandpa’s special place.

“Decades ago non-native trout were placed in the high sierra lakes. That was great for people but proved disastrous for the frogs that lived there. The fish were many and always ravenous. They feasted on the tadpoles until all the frogs vanished.

“Not only did the frogs vanish, the snakes and the birds that fed on the frogs also disappeared. The lakes also suffered because there were no tadpoles to eat the algae.

“When the frogs were gone, some people realized how incredibly essential and important those tiny creatures were to that food web. They had been critical for maintaining the structure of that ecological community. Thought to be unimportant, they turned out to be the keystone species. Removing them had caused a dramatic shift that proved disastrous for frogs, birds, other creatures and the habitat.”

Richard looked at me and said, “Sidney, Stop! This is not cheering us up.”

I begged them to wait and went on.

“Recently something wonderful happened. Someone decided to change things. In Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks crews started taking non-native trout out of the lakes and high-country basins. The results were amazing. With the non-native trout gone the few frogs that had somehow hidden and managed to hang on immediately started to reclaim their entire habitat!

“Removing the non-native trout was such a success that biologists are now proposing to remove trout from an additional 75 high-altitude lakes and about 50 miles of stream to bring back the ecological balance to the area. In other words they want to give everyone their old jobs back.” 

Even though I had told the story, I still joined Rusty and Richard for a cheer at the end. The story lifted our spirits and gave us hope.

Who knows, if that could happen maybe Great Grandpa’s special place and his frogs could make a comeback too?

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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