How ‘bout them toad suckers? Ain’t they clods?

When my wife came home the other evening, she asked if I had heard about the toad-sucking dog on NPR.


“What, not another attack ad against Shuler?” I asked.

But she assured me it was a real dog sucking real toads. I checked NPR’s website, and sure enough there was a piece by Laura Mirsch about the escapades of her family’s cocker spaniel, Lady.

“’We noticed Lady spending an awful lot of time down by the pond in our backyard,’ Laura Mirsch recalls.

“Lady would wander the area, disoriented and withdrawn, soporific and glassy-eyed. ‘Then one night after I’d put the dogs out, Lady wouldn’t come in,’ Mirsch says. ‘She finally staggered over to me from the cattails. She looked up at me, leaned her head over and opened her mouth like she was going to throw up, and out plopped this disgusting toad.’”

Lady was an addict. Toads of the genus Bufo produce a toxin called bufotenine that may have a hallucinogenic effect. Hippies of the late 1960s and beyond who couldn’t score a lid and couldn’t find any ‘shrooms turned to toad licking to keep on trippin’.

Now Lady didn’t have to be checked in to the Fido Ford Clinic. According to Mirsch, she licked her habit cold-canine. “‘She seems to have outgrown the wild, toad-obsessed years of her youth,’ Mirsch says, ‘and now only sucks on weekends.’”

The toxicology is a bit convoluted. Some scientists say that bufotenine is not hallucinogenic, but others are not so sure.

The toad has figured prominently in ancient mythologies, medicines and shamanic uses. It is known from the Aztecs and Olmecs as far back as 2,000 B.C., and these peoples documented that the toads were consumed for hallucinogenic purposes.

Then there are the Feds. According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), bufotenine is a controlled substance and a Schedule 1 hallucinogen. If you can’t trust your government, whom can you trust?

If toad sucking is not your bag, man, you can always smoke it. Some of the industrious chemists of those bygone hippie days discovered that one of the components of bufotenine in the Colorado River toad (5-MeO-DMT) was certainly hallucinogenic and devised ways to extract it and smoke it. One of the toad smokers was a guy named Albert Most, who founded the Church of the Toad of Light and published a booklet called “Bufo Alvarius: Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert,” which detailed how to extract the drug and smoke it.

The hamlet of Toad Suck, Ark. (pop. 288) supposedly has nothing to do with licking or smoking toads even though there is an annual celebration known as Toad Suck Daze. According to locals, Toad Suck came by its name from a more provincial intoxicant. It seems that when the narrows of the Arkansas River near Conway were too shallow to navigate, the boats would tie-up and wait. During this wait the hardy river-faring crew would imbibe copious amounts of refreshment at the local tavern. The locals said they would suck on the bottle until they swelled up like toads — and there you have Toad Suck, Ark.

The header for this column is a line from Mason Williams’ poem, “Them Toad Suckers.” I will leave you with a couple more:

Them hugger mugger toad suckers, way down South,

Stickin’ them sucky toads in they mouth!

How to be a toad sucker, no way to duck it,

Get yourself a toad, rear back, and suck it!

I wonder if sucking toads is what gave Williams “Classical Gas”?

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