Sometimes it’s better to keep our mouths closed. Grandfather Frog learns this the hard way in this short story for kids by environmentalist Thornton W. Burgess.
Grandfather Frog has a great big mouth. You know that. Everybody does. His friends of the Smiling Pool, the Laughing Brook, and the Green Meadows have teased Grandfather Frog a great deal about the size of his mouth, but he hasn’t minded in the least, not the very least. You see, he learned a long time ago that a big mouth is very handy for catching foolish green flies, especially when two happen to come along together. So he is rather proud of his big mouth, just as he is of his goggly eyes.
But once in a while his big mouth gets him into trouble. It’s a way big mouths have. It holds so much that it makes him greedy sometimes. He stuffs it full after his stomach already has all that it can hold, and then of course he can’t swallow. Then Grandfather Frog looks very foolish and silly and undignified, and everybody calls him a greedy fellow who is old enough to know better and who ought to be ashamed of himself. Perhaps he is, but he never says so, and he is almost sure to do the same thing over again the first chance he has.
Now it happened that one morning when Grandfather Frog had had a very good breakfast of foolish green flies and really didn’t need another single thing to eat, who should come along but Little Joe Otter, who had been down to the Big River fishing. He had eaten all he could hold, and he was taking the rest of his catch to a secret hiding-place up the Laughing Brook.
Now Grandfather Frog is very fond of fish for a change, and when he saw those that Little Joe Otter had, his eyes glistened, and in spite of his full stomach his mouth watered.
“Good morning, Grandfather Frog! Have you had your breakfast yet?” called Little Joe Otter.
Grandfather Frog wanted to say no, but he always tells the truth. “Ye-e-s,” he replied. “I’ve had my breakfast, such as it was. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, for no reason in particular. I just thought that if you hadn’t, you might like a fish. But as long as you have breakfasted, of course you don’t want one,” said Little Joe, his bright eyes beginning to twinkle. He held the fish out so that Grandfather Frog could see just how plump and nice they were.
“Chugarum!” exclaimed Grandfather Frog. “Those certainly are very nice fish, very nice fish indeed. It is very nice of you to think of a poor old fellow like me, and I—er—well, I might find room for just a little teeny, weeny one, if you can spare it.”
Little Joe Otter knows all about Grandfather Frog’s greediness. He looked at Grandfather Frog’s white and yellow waistcoat and saw how it was already stuffed full to bursting. The twinkle in his eyes grew more mischievous than ever as he said: “Of course I can. But I wouldn’t think of giving such an old friend a teeny, weeny one.”
With that, Little Joe picked out the biggest fish he had and tossed it over to Grandfather Frog. It landed close by his nose with a great splash, and it was almost half as big as Grandfather Frog himself. It was plump and looked so tempting that Grandfather Frog forgot all about his full stomach. He even forgot to be polite and thank Little Joe Otter. He just opened his great mouth and seized the fish. Yes, Sir, that is just what he did. Almost before you could wink an eye, the fish had started down Grandfather Frog’s throat head first.
Now you know Grandfather Frog has no teeth, and so he cannot bite things in two. He has to swallow them whole. That is just what he started to do with the fish. It went all right until the head reached his stomach. But you can’t put anything more into a thing already full, and Grandfather Frog’s stomach was packed as full as it could be of foolish green flies. There the fish stuck, and gulp and swallow as hard as he could, Grandfather Frog couldn’t make that fish go a bit farther. Then he tried to get it out again, but it had gone so far down his throat that he couldn’t get it back. Grandfather Frog began to choke.