Greetings From… Palatka, Florida

By Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.comI’ve never written about what happened that night. 

It’s rarely come up in family conversations. Once mentioned, the subject quickly changes.

It was dark. It was late.

Palatka, Florida

We were stopped in the middle of a secluded road on the outer edge of the Ocala National Forest. 

The truck high beams lit up the road. The view was symmetrical. To the right and left was a mowed shoulder, a shallow ditch, and an unbroken line of pine trees.

But we weren’t looking right or left. We were looking straight ahead.

Like diamonds laying in black silk, the surface of the road glittered with a thousand specks of light.

Moving.

Blinking.

Jumping.

It took a minute to comprehend. I rolled down the truck window for a better look.

Toads. 

As far as we could see, to where the truck’s lights faded into darkness, the road was teeming with toads.

They were between us and home. We’d setup the RV in a state park campground, then left to visit friends.

We looked for alternative routes home. Mr. Ferguson’s only suggestion was 17 miles of unpaved National Forest roads. We didn’t have four wheel drive. And Florida has mud.

We talked about clearing a path ahead of the truck. Lacking some kind of toad-plow, there were just too many to even step between. 

Plagued by a growing sense of dread, I looked over at MsBoyink. In the glow of the dash lights, I could see that she had reached the same conclusion.

I prayed a quick prayer of forgiveness. I rolled up the window. I turned up the radio. I shifted the truck into drive. 

And I let my foot slip off the brake.

A mile later, it was over. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.

Sleep didn’t come easy that night. 

And the next day, as much as I could, I washed that truck without looking at it.

The Ocala National Forest  has  607 square miles of sand pine scrub forest. Visitors to the area can find camping, canoeing, fishing, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and more. Learn about the park at fs.usda.gov/ocala.

Photo from Silver Springs, FL – on the other side of the Ocala National Forest from the site of our toad massacre