Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The true story of Toad Suck

A listener sent this little note and I pass it along in the blissful hope that you will become a better person after reading it .

If one ever wanted to know how "history" gets distorted, one need look only at the "Toad Suck" story to see what happens.

Every year we get the same ol' Cock & Bull story (another historical reference, but I digress) of how people on river boats would sit down by the river and suck on bottles till they swelled up like toads.

Well, they got the river part right.

Let's go back before the Civil war, when Arkansas was still a wilderness in most places. Very few roads existed, and most of them are nothing more than pathways.

Trains are not around yet and the main mode of transportation at this time is river boat.

Because the river has not been dammed or controlled in any manor, you had to play by the rules of the river.

One of the major properties of the river you had to use as a riverboat captain was knowing where the calm spots of water were so you could land the boat with out fear of the current pushing on your stern while your bow ramp was down.

Today these are called eddies or backwaters. Back then they were called SUCKS.

If one grabs a map of the pre-civil war Arkansas river, one will see that spread up and down the map, from Mississippi river to past Tulsa, are numerous places with the name "suck". Several have animal names. And lo and behold the spot near the Cadron settlement, near what is now Conway, is named for the Toad.

This was also the location of a shoal in the river and made it a good spot to place a ferry once more roads started showing up in the area.

So this area of the Arkansas river became a major gathering point.

And who knows, maybe some bright entrepreneur set himself up a tavern at this important landing and the old timers did sit around and swell up like toads.

I happen to think that the real story is being lost to a myth.

Just like train companies influencing local history, the old river boat traffic left it's mark on the state's history and traditions.

So go have fun at Toad Suck Days, but remember that it's named for a feature of the river and river transportation, not a bunch of drunkards.

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