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story.lead_photo.caption Two frogs sit on a curb Saturday night in the News Tribune parking lot. Photo by Greg Jackson / News Tribune.
News Tribune sports reporter Tom Rackers
Having pets in the workplace is generally frowned upon.

And despite the occasional plea for a dog or a cat to liven up the newsroom that is unceremoniously shot down by those in charge, the News Tribune is a pet-free zone.

At least inside, because we do have frogs.

For some reason, every few years, frogs take up residence just outside our front door. This is one of those years.

We only see them at night when they chase bugs to eat. I guess they spend the heat of day either hiding in the cracks of the wall around the parking lot or under the newspaper vending machine outside the front door.

There are two frogs this year, one a little bigger than the other. I always make sure when I walk outside to check there are no frogs in my first couple of steps. I know they're smart enough to get out of the way, but when you're sporting size 13 shoes, it's better to be safe than sorry and sad because, you know, I squished a frog.

I was doing my due diligence last Monday night and I had the rare two-frog sighting, just outside the door.

The large one, farthest away, bounded away as I opened the glass door. The smaller one, standing just on the other side of the door, didn't budge in blocking my way. And stared at me, almost taunting me. So I stared back for a couple of seconds, then realized I was a grown adult for some reason involved in a staring contest with a frog. I carefully stepped around him, and went on my way. Score — Human 1, Frog 0.

That lead lasted three days.

Last Thursday night, I was the last one to leave the newsroom. And as I approached the outside door, what catches my eye but the smaller frog. I guess when one of the other people had left in the previous 30 minutes or so, it had somehow snuck in and was now bouncing around in the foyer, I guess enjoying the air conditioning.

I wasn't going to leave it inside all night, so the chase began. A 50-plus year-old man vs. a less than 50-day-old frog. Fortunately, it was out of sight of our security camera, there is no evidence it wasn't a quick catch-and-release. So that's the story I'm going with, as fortunately there was no one walking by outside to catch a glimpse of what I'm sure was prime physical comedy.

Score — Silly looking human 1, Frog 1.

But the frog had one last card to play. After I was able to snatch it and cup my hands around it, it did what frogs do.

It urinated on me. Frog 2, Damp-hands human 1.

Respecting its knockout blow, I carried the frog outside and released it back into the wild of the Monroe Street sidewalk.

In the past, we generally only see the frogs for a couple of weeks, so I'm guessing their time here is growing short. But they've provided a needed diversion in what has been a pretty tough week around the News Tribune with the loss of Bob Watson.

When our turns come up in the Press Box column rotation, you can count on at least one of us to encourage the writer to use his "best words." But when it comes to writing about Bob, all of the "best words" have already been used by my news-side colleagues and people in the community in the stories in tribute to his life.

But here goes.

I am the lone newsroom employee left that was here when Bob was hired. That doesn't give me any special insight, because while we worked in the same room, it was in different departments. And when the News Tribune shifted to morning delivery from the afternoon, sports guys started to come to the office late in the afternoon while the news people were still here during the day.

In those years, most of our interactions came when Bob was close to walking out the door for the night. He'd walk over to watch the Cardinals game on the television for a minute and depending on the score, would say something positive or negative as all fans do.

Bob did start a tradition in the sports department. Most people's ring tones on their cellphone are distinctive, Bob's was a song. I have no idea what song, only it was an instrumental. One day a few years ago, Bob got a call and for some reason, then-staffer Adam Stillman and I both started chair dancing to the distinctive beats of the music.

Since then, no matter how long the song went — whether he answered in five seconds or it went to voicemail — so did the chair dancing. And then we'd go right back to whatever work we had been doing. Adam took his dancing talents to St. Louis after a couple of years, but I kept the tradition going.

I have no idea if Bob ever noticed. If he did, he never said anything. But it was always interesting watching the reactions of new sports employees when they saw my slick moves for the first time, wondering exactly what they'd gotten themselves into.

One final thing. Bob's messy desk was well-known, it was a landslide waiting to happen. And a couple of times a year, it did.

Looking around the room, it looks like I am now No. 1 on the list. It's an honor I will wear proudly in his memory.

We're going to miss you, Bob.

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