It was Moctezuma who saved my life. It happened on a Saturday, after we had a week of heavy rains that had increased the frog population to the point where they were more aggressive than usual, almost cocky. I was late in starting to hunt this day because of a business engagement, so that when I was finally able to take my stand on the patio it was 6:30 and growing dark.
Just a few minutes after I sat down I saw one small frog at the end of the yard, farther than the gun would carry accurately, but I snapped a shot at it anyway. I don't think I hit it. As I took the gun down from my shoulder to cock it I couldn't hear any BBs rolling down the barrel, and I realized that I was out of ammunition.
I reached down beside my chair to get a fresh tube of BBs, and as I did so I saw coming around the corner of the house the biggest frog that I had ever seen. It was pellet-gun or even .22-rifle size, a magnificent specimen, its gray-green skin glistening slimily in the light from a window. And then I noticed something that caused me to get very cold in the region of the gut: it was staring at me unblinkingly and malevolently, and its lips were working in a way that I have seen the lips of gluttons work when they are being served a steak.
Very slowly, so I wouldn't startle it, I reached for the BBs, got hold of the tube of them, brought it back and tried to open it with my thumbnail. I finally got the top pried up far enough for the BBs to come out, and then, still doing everything in the slowest of slow motion, I brought the end of the rifle barrel in to where I could unscrew the tip and open the hole in the barrel where it is reloaded.
But the sound of the first BB going into the barrel apparently warned the frog, for it sprang in a tremendous leap that brought it within four feet of me, where it sat for a moment, twisting and writhing slightly like a cat, preparing for its next spring, which would land it on my throat.
I panicked then and dropped the BBs, and I shrieked two words through the choking in my throat that I always shriek when I am terrified, "Holy Mother!"
No sooner had the "Holy" left my mouth than I saw springing from my side at the giant frog my Chihuahua retriever, Moctezuma. He went straight for the working and drooling lips of the frog, and for the next two minutes I watched there on the patio the greatest animal fight that I had ever seen.
The frog and the dog wrestled and snapped and tore at each other, the dog's growling low and vicious, the frog's bleating the echo of the blood-lust cry of some prehistoric ancestor.
Once I thought Moctezuma was done for; the frog maneuvered him to the rear and gave him a powerful kick with its hind leg that sent the dog skidding across the rough surface of the patio up against a Spanish dagger plant that my wife had planted at the edge, and I thought for a second that he had been impaled on one of the leaves. But no. He missed the point and went back at the frog in a charge of such ferocity that the frog was knocked off the patio, and they resumed the fight on the grass, rolling and snapping and kicking until, with one mighty leap, the frog broke it off and went under the fence into the next yard.
Moctezuma stood trembling and tousled at the spot, but his baying was a trumpet sound of victory.