THE TRUTH ABOUT TOAD SUCK (ARKANSAS)

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TOAD SUCK, ARKANSAS — Though the muddy banks of the Arkansas River are chock full of toads, few are ripe for sucking.  And legend says that this town did not get its name from such a disgusting act.  But it made a great story, and a forgotten old poem that drew me here.  “Them Toad Suckers” (belted out with loud foot stompin’) begins:

How ‘bout them toad suckers,

Ain’t they clods

Sittin’ there suckin’

Them green toady frogs...

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            Behind the counter at Toad Suck One Stop, Kim Thompson has heard every joke, every comment about the name.  Every few days, someone comes north from Little Rock — about 40 minutes — crosses the Arkansas River, and stops to ask.

            “Honey, they come in here all the time,” Kim told me.

            Toad Suck One Stop is happy to oblige, selling caps, T-shirts, shot glasses and other Toad Suck SWAG.  Hey, when your town wins a national contest for “Most Embarrassing or Unfortunate Name,” you wear it with pride.

            “Honey,” Kim said, “I’ve heard it all.”  But she had never heard the poem.  So I belted out the second verse.

Suckin’ them hop toads

Suckin’ them plunkers

Suckin’ them leapy types

Suckin’ them chunkers.

            Toad Suck, Arkansas got its name a century before musician Mason Williams wrote “Them Toad Suckers” and hollered it on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”  Williams never explained his inspiration.  Perhaps one dark night in on a muddy river. . .

Look at them toad suckers,

Ain’t they snappy!

Suckin’ them bog frogs,

Sure makes ‘em happy.

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            Toad sucking has a long history, particularly among those seeking a hallucinogenic high from the skin of SOME toads.  But psychedelics do not figure in the legend of Toad Suck, Arkansas. 

            Seems back in the mid-19th century, these muddy flats hosted a tavern, made popular by a ferry across the Arkansas.  Locals began saying, “If you can't find so-and-so, go down to the tavern. He'll be sucking on a bottle so much he's swollen up like a toad.”  And the name stuck. 

This next verse, a personal favorite, got Kim to laugh.

Them huggermugger toad suckers

Way down South

Stickin’ them sucky-toads

In they mouth.

            Toad Suck’s other national exposure came when Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee appeared on Letterman.  Huckabee mentioned Toad Suck and even brought a toad.  He did not suck it but he did give the creature a kiss.  For good luck, perhaps.

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            Toad Suck’s luck ran out last May when the Arkansas River flooded the entire town.  Toad Suck One Stop has recovered but Toad Suck Park remains closed.  Still, the town with the nutty name rolls on. 

            Annual Toad Suck Daze are still held in nearby Conway, drawing 100,000 people for music, gator on a stick, and toad races.  Sorry, no actual sucking.  But if you’ve got a hankerin’ to try, “Them Toad Suckers” closes with a how-to.

How to be a toad sucker,

Now way to duck it

Getchy-self a toad

Rare back and suck it.

Or don’t. Onwards.

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