The Story of Coleman’s Frog
as told by Gary and Peggy
Think. Try to recall something you know that weighs 42 pounds.
Maybe, your four-year old grandson. Or ten and a half bags of sugar.
Or, Coleman’s Frog?
Did you ask, “What is Coleman’s Frog?” I thought you may.
This is a tale told to me at a recent luncheon when I asked what kinds of new and interesting postcards they have found. Gary and Peggy replied … there was a man named Coleman from far up north in New Brunswick, Canada. He had a pet frog that weighed 42 pounds.
If it weren’t for this postcard§, it would be hard to believe.
Notwithstanding time and distance, doing research on a topic like frogs would not overly stress the imagination, but finding details on one specific frog that lived, perhaps 133 years ago, is, to use a true researcher’s expression, crazy.
But thanks to a Canadian Museum the following story appears from the myths and legends of old New Brunswick. It goes like this,
In the Spring of 1885, a local named Fred Coleman pushed his small rowboat off the shore of Killarney Lake. The lake is a popular fishing hole and the source of Killarney Creek. The creek flows down through the Nashwaaksis neighborhood of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Fred’s plan that morning was a quiet hour or two fishing for his supper. His scheme was interrupted when a seven-pound frog jumped into his boat and began to “ribbit.”
The next part of this story may be the only truth to be found here, but plainly told, Fred simply did not understand frog. He could only assume the frog was hungry and offered him a tiny chip of cheese. The frog ate it. It is unsure if the frog was gleeful.
Evidently, Fred was so surprised at the size of his new rowboat passenger that he took the frog home and showed him off on the front-yard lawn of his lakeshore guesthouse. For certain most of the amusement was centered on the fact that the frog ate anything Fred gave it.
Fred was well-known, others about town took for granted the content of the frog’s diet. Since most of it came from the Barker House kitchen, the frog enjoyed a constant menu of baked beans, Junebugs, buttermilk toddies, and whey laced with whiskey. The frog grew and grew larger and heavier. Finally tipping a scale at 42 pounds.
Most people agreed that Coleman’s Frog was certainly Fred’s best friend. Fred’s relationship with the frog lasted eight years.
There is much ado reported in a Maine newspaper that the owner – pet relationship between the Innkeeper and the Frog would have continued except for the fact that Coleman’s frog was killed in a “dynamite” accident. Here is where you should read between the lines – someone threw a stick of dynamite into Killarney Lake in an attempt to shortcut their way to a fried “perch” supper.
When the remains of Coleman’s frog were recovered, none other than Fred himself made sure that his frog was properly taxidermized. When the frog was returned to Fred, he proudly displayed his frog in the lobby of his “Barker House” lodge.
The frog was later deeded to the York-Sunbury Historical Society.
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This cartoon went with a retelling of the Coleman’s Frog story by the Christian Science Monitor News Service in the Spring of 1979. It was reprinted in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Thursday, April 12th.
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In the end, this outlandish tale boils down to who tells the best story, but the “green-back” frog, I mean dollar from the advertisement crowd, wins the prize for audacity.
After repeated retellings, new evidence often finds it way to the summit of the documents pile. The newest farce is as ridiculous as the tale itself. It seems that while Fred was still living, he was approached by a cough syrup company executive. They met over lunch and the executive asked Fred’s permission to use his pet in a promotion for their medication that would “relieve the frog in your throat.”
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§ Postcard courtesy of Gary and Peggy Spengler, Frederica, Delaware