Contributed Photo: A Colorado River Toad, sometimes called the Sonoran Toad, possesses psychoactive toxins that are claimed to soothe a restless mind.
Column By Mike Bibb
Admittedly, I don’t normally give much thought to toads or frogs or similar elusive creatures that usually only publicly appear during our rainy season – until I don’t hear them croaking after a particularly drenching downpour.
Maybe the soil in my neighborhood isn’t conducive to attracting the little creatures. For some reason, the last couple of monsoons hasn’t produced the throaty chorus of the nocturnal amphibians. Instead, a noticeable silence exists, occasionally interrupted by the annoying buzzing of a mosquito.
Being a frequent visitor to Mexico, I often come across news stories not normally found in stateside publications. It’s not that they aren’t available, rather a little research is often required to uncover them. Certainly, the New York Times, CNN and other popular media outlets do not usually report upon the life and times of a southwestern toad, unless its struggles can somehow be associated with the climate change incantation.
In Mexico, however, the Colorado River Toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert Toad, is held in higher esteem. Actually, there’s an annual festival celebrating the animal’s unique mind-altering qualities that are believed to be capable of soothing a restless disposition.
During the monsoon months, aficionados of the toad travel from all over the world to the little community of Punta Chueca, about 90 miles west of Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora. A narrow road heading several kilometers north of the tourist village of Bahia Kino, on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, ends in Punta Chueca.
In a country renowned for another relaxing elixir (in moderation), Tequila, the toad’s chemical properties are claimed to work in reverse. Instead of producing an aggravated mental condition from consuming too much agave prepared alcohol, the toad’s defensive glands discharge a sort of psychedelic toxin and when dried, mixed with tobacco and smoked, triggers a mind-altering experience.
An article in a recent edition of Milenio (Millennium), a Mexican newspaper, reports the toads are not harmed during the chemical extraction procedure. Similar to “milking” a rattlesnake to create an anti-venom.
According to Octavio Rettig Hinojosa, a shaman known as El Profeta del Sapo (The Prophet of the Toad) the toad’s gland secretions are “An anti-hallucinogen, it’s something that will remove the madness from your mind, everything that removes you from the here and now, everything that is not real,” he insists. “The Bufo alvarius (toad) lives buried in the ground for 10 months a year and in the rainy season it comes to the surface to reproduce, eat and share this ancestral medicine with us.”
Various celebrities, including heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, no stranger to drugs and alcohol, is a fan of the toad’s purported magic. Tyson credited the toad’s psychoactive chemicals as weaning him off other controlled substances and motivated him to make a boxing comeback last year.
Unfortunately for Iron Mike, his bout against Roy Jones in November 2020, ended in a draw. Neither aging fighter could score sufficient points to win the match. Perhaps the toad’s mythical abilities aren’t extended to contestants in the boxing world. Or, maybe the fight was “not real.”
Could it be a cure for COVID-19, at least the anxiety caused by it? To think, I had no idea toads and frogs were much good for anything other than consuming insects or tasting like chicken when cooked.
Incidentally, for those wishing to sample the savory flavor of the diminutive critters, I noticed uncooked frog/toad legs are currently available in the meat department of Safeway, next to the crayfish. Hurry, supplies are limited.
Anyway, after reading the article and realizing American’s fascination with mind-altering plants and chemicals, and Graham County’s sojourn into the marijuana agricultural business, I got to wondering if it might be possible to incorporate a toad growing operation within a few of the vacant NatureSweet tomato greenhouses in Bonita.
Seems a perfect match. The greenhouses are already plumbed to dispense water, creating a moist, warm environment, conducive to a toad’s lifestyle. Possibly, they could remain above ground year-a-around, producing the “ancestral medicine” necessary to enhance a successful psychedelic trip. There wouldn’t be much maintenance in keeping the slimy hoppers happy – a few bugs to eat and a girl/boyfriend or other romantic interests. And, of course, a skilled milking technician.
Not certain if the required 10-foot-high razor-wire fence, monitored with numerous cameras and alarms, would be necessary for the security of the toads. I haven’t read or heard of protection procedures to be taken when growing toads for commercial purposes. They might actually be a high-value commodity, requiring greater than normal safeguards. Including preventing aerial invasions by hawks and crows.
All sorts of federal, state and county departments of government could eventually become involved, including the Interior Department, BLM, Departments of Health and Amphibian Resources, Bureau of Indian Affairs (if the toads are determined to be sacred), Federal Aviation Administration to maintain oversight of high-flying birds and other phenomena, Border Patrol and Customs to make sure any escaping toad is fully masked and vaxxed, and local county sheriffs would be essential in apprehending toads determined to be a threat to the safety and well-being of the community.
In essence, a combination marijuana/toad facility could substantially increase the overall employment opportunities of the area by adding another industry to further diversify the county’s established cotton, mining, and prison enterprises.
The toad’s brain warping byproduct, when added to the harvested “recreational” marijuana fruit, would instantly generate an entirely new item for the medicinal drug enthusiast. NatureSweet, or its successor, Bayacan, might consider calling the product “Reefer Madness with a twist of Bufo alvarius. Guaranteed to calm whatever’s ailing or blow your mind.”
It’d be a winner, for sure. I can imagine tax revenues rapidly filling the county’s coffers. The Board of Supervisors would have plenty of money to fight legal challenges. Melancholy teens would no longer resort to shooting spray paint up their nostrils to achieve a buzz.
The Chamber of Commerce would be compelled to update its automated sign outside its Thatcher Boulevard office to read “Welcome to Graham County – Arizona’s official home of Climate, Cotton, Cattle, Copper & Contented Toads.”
At last, a real Utopian Gila Valley dreamland – nestled along the burned-out banks of the Gila River and only a few toad-tokes away from total bliss.
The opinion expressed in this editorial is that of the author.