Monday, January 12, 2009


Max Newport

Especially if you are a frog.

In Fellsmere.

In January.

Sorry folks. I just read an article by Ray McNulty in the Press Journal.

And his style of writing.

Has grown.

Really grown.

On me.

But not enough for me to appreciate it to the extent that I want to pursue it any further. Between McNulty’s bi-polar attitude toward the Florida Gators and Russ Lemmon’s sheer laziness in offering himself as a Youtube exchange center, it is easy to understand the downward spiral of newspaper circulation. Yesterday, Russ offered to send out a “brainteaser” via email to those bored enough to do such a thing and mean old Russ only gives his victims two hours to complete this puzzle. McNulty’s article last Friday poor mouthing the Gators for winning the national championship game was downright embarrassing.

These guys are bad.

Really bad.



But I digress. I wish that I was in a position where I could join Laura Guttridge in her protest at the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival. Think what you will about Laura, but she is the real deal when it comes to caring for animals and doesn’t play both sides of the field. She definitely walks the walk and I admire her tenacity for standing up for her beliefs even though it makes her the subject of frequent ridicule from the ever so brilliant posters on TCPalm. I don’t necessarily agree with her on everything. Max will eat the burger but not kill the cow. We are a better community with the likes of Laura speaking her mind.

I have eaten frog legs several times at Mrs. B’s now defunct restaurant and they were okay. They were more of a novelty; something to try when the kids were younger. We have loaded up the Newportmobile and attended the frog leg festival a couple of times. The frog legs were awful. The meal was served cold. The legs were chewier than a pack of Trident, the grits were an insult to anyone who was raised in the South and the cole slaw was well, cole slaw. Publix serves better cole slaw at their deli. And the hush puppies? Go to Pineapple Joe’s for some good hush puppies. Maybe I just got a bad plate or maybe the county commissioner who slopped it on recognized me or maybe, just maybe, the food at the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival simply sucks.
There is a basic contradiction in this celebration in that the basis of the festival is the gruesome death of the guest of honor. There are posters and shirts celebrating the frog in a comic fashion. Frogs dancing. Frogs playing banjos. “Kiss My Frog” t-shirts.

There is a t-shirt I would like to see. A few decades ago, there was not an issue of National Lampoon that I would not buy. The cartoon above was so memorable, that they kind of made it their official logo. It showed a couple in a restaurant with a sign above the kitchen door saying “Try our frog legs”. Leaving the kitchen was a legless frog on a board with wheels with an old timey metal iron in each hand. If I had some of those shirts, I would pass them out for free at our renowned festival of the frog.

I must confess at this point, as a lifelong resident of Indian River County, I have never been out in the marsh gigging, or more likely in my case, attempting to gig a frog. It is not an ethical thing since I do hunt and fish. In the case of frogs, the end just didn’t justify the means. I spent many a night with a Coleman lantern and a net catching shrimp because we like to eat shrimp and there is very little of the feisty beast that is not eaten. My understanding from talking to veteran giggers is that there are two basic methods of dealing with the post-gigged frog. One is cutting off the legs in the boat and tossing the still living frog back into the brink. The other is throwing the wounded frog into a cloth sack and let them flop around until they die. Either way seems like a pretty nasty demise for the purpose of harvesting a miniscule amount of meat.

We are told not to fret about the local frog population because this year, the frog legs are being imported from a farming operation in Asia. That sounds really healthy since Chinese dog food nearly killed some of our pets a few years ago. Keep the paramedics on standby.

It’s not that this festival is entrenched in tradition or making tons of money to benefit the community. This thing started in 1990 by Fran Adams, now the widow of former Lieutenant Governor Tom Adams, but who is a local politico in her own right and a nice lady. According to the Sebastian Sun, “Over the past 18 years, more than $60,000 has been raised through the Frog Leg festival”. That comes out to about $3,300 a year.

They could make more money with a bake sale.

Fellsmere has a tremendous history to celebrate other than a pile of legless dead frogs. In 1976, Charlotte Lockwood published a book entitled “Florida’s Historic Indian River County”. A good portion of the book is dedicated to the “City of Kings”. They had two newspapers in the early 1900’s, The Fellsmere Farmer and the Fellsmere Tribune. They had a baseball team, a movie theater and a 14 mile railroad track to transport their main crop, sugar to Sebastian for shipment. Sugar was a big deal. They grew, refined and packaged sugar and sold it as “Florida Crystals”. Sugar was big in Fellsmere well into the 1950’s. I’m sure the library has a copy of this great book. In my copy, there is nary a word about frogs as an industry but I do know that hunting frogs in the marshes of the western part of the county has been going on for ages and I am not going to suggest that it is not part of Fellsmere’s history. I was able to find that 20 thousand pounds of frog legs were shipped from Sebastian to Chicago in 1947 and I am going to guess that some of those frogs rode the rail from Fellsmere.

The town of Fellsmere has so much more to celebrate than frog amputees. Fellsmere was way ahead of the nation in the area of women’s suffrage. In 1912 women were voting in Fellsmere elections. The 19th Amendment was not ratified until 1920. Why not celebrate Fellsmere being eight years ahead of the curve in allowing women to vote instead of chewing (and chewing) on rancid frog legs from China? If you want to celebrate the frog without killing it, here are a couple of ideas:

I am looking forward to the day where technology will be there for a video t-shirt so that I can join Laura at the festival sporting a video of a living, breathing frog with his lower legs crudely hacked off. Until then, we can all just be thankful that Fellsmere doesn’t consider French poodles a part of their heritage.

Bon Appétit.



Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Max! It is sad to see Fellsmere abandon it's true values all for the sake of comfort... Also, it is almost as if they are trying to justify their actions by mutilating an Asian frog instead of an American frog, but let's get real: a frog is still a frog, no matter where it comes from.
I do think festivals (and such) are needed to bring the community together, but when the object being glorified is also being subject to intense abuse. What is the point? What does that say about the community?
As you so relevantly pointed out, Fellsmere has a rich history; it is filled with an abundance of events worth celebrating! Unfortunately, this has what all have become accustomed to.
Kudos to you and Laura for raising awareness--

LDouglas said...

This is too weird. My post this week is about Peta- sort of, and about meat- sort of.

(But nothing to do about those poor little frogs legs.) A small community like Fellsmere getting together for a frogs leg festival would really be no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But like everything else it's not as simple as it seems. And it's expected to grow every year and get bigger and better.

And the frogs are suffering an environmental nightmare. Feminized from pollution right here in the U.S. And I actually came across an article once that showed frogs trying to escape a lake in China because it was so polluted- only to be slaughtered on the highway right beside it.

Now as far as Mr. Lemmon's brainteaser- to each his own. I thought it was a novel and fun idea. It intrigued me as I enjoy puzzles and brainteasers. I just chickened out e-mailing him for it because... ahem... well I didn't want to prove how clever I am. Lol.

BlessUrHeart said...

More voices raised like Max and Laura Guttridge are needed! Instead of awful fried, tortured animals, why not celebrate sugar mills? Bake sale, spun sugar, cotton candy, you name it! Sell cookies shaped like frogs.

This is barbaric, and frankly, I've never gone because of that fact. Max is not the first to say how truly awful the food is, sorry to say. All food from China is a bad idea.

BlessUrHeart said...

BTW, Max, I not only remember that cartoon, I saved copies. Sick but brilliant, that was the Lampoon.

doug said...

Stupid column. Waste of time and "space"....Let the people eat frogs one day out of the year I mean honestly does anyone ever even think about having frog legs for dinner except during this once a year festival...Get outta here you clowns.

fairy delilah said...

Hi Doug,
Slimy as they are, it's surprising how many people not only think about eating frog legs more than once a year...but actually put those bugers in their mouths and swallow.

The three main regions where frog legs are devoured are France (that's where we get the epithet "French Frogs," China and the great American south.

Frogs are not the only thing Floridians serve up -- preferably with beer -- they add gator and rattlesnake to their menus. It does sound a lot like the China, minus the dogs and cats of course.

Here's something we may consider for future festivities: Iguana! It's supposed to taste like chicken, too. Iguana farms are improving life in El Salvador and are currently serving 60 markets in the U.S.


No clowning.