When Katie Nicholson saw a frog slide for auction last May, she said she wasn’t even sure exactly what it looked like. But she thought the pond her husband built at their Burlington home could …
When Katie Nicholson saw a frog slide for auction last May, she said she wasn’t even sure exactly what it looked like. But she thought the pond her husband built at their Burlington home could use a frog. George Nicholson agreed.
The bidding on the City of Powell’s frog got up to $1,200, and the Nicholsons were going to stop there. Then George said to go ahead and place one more bid. At $1,225, the Nicholsons won the beloved Powell frog.
“It’s a pretty expensive lawn ornament,” Katie said last week, leaning against the giant concrete frog slide. “But doesn’t it look great here?”
The frog was once part of a children’s wading pool at Homesteader Park — called the “Froggy Pond” — and it was a well-recognized town landmark. Many adults today fondly recall playing on the slide when they were children.
But in 2017, citing escalating costs for maintenance and upgrades, city officials shut down the pool and reclaimed it as a grassy area. The frog was then put up for auction. The bidding started out at $5 but grew to $450 within a few days and eventually reached the $1,225 mark.
After winning the auction, George said he received calls from people all over the country asking what he planned to do with the frog.
“There’s thousands of kids that must have played on that thing. I might not have bought it if I’d have known it’d be this big a deal,” he said. “It’s unreal.”
Besides the calls, both Katie and George have heard from people who live all over the region and have memories of the frog. Besides stories of playing on the frog as kids, there are people who, while they were college students, would get drunk and hang out with the frog in the middle of the night.
The addition of the “froggy dude” is just the latest improvement George Nicholson has made to his property in Burlington.
He first moved there about 30 years ago, when the property wasn’t anything but a mobile home on some pasture. One day he decided to buy it.
“I was so proud, I called my dad,” George recalled.
His father, who worked up in Alaska at the time, told him it was a terrible piece of property. It was all alkali.
“It was all white through here,” George said, “but I told him I was going to fix it.”
George had sleep problems, which made it so he couldn’t sleep more than a few hours a night. In the early morning hours when he couldn’t sleep, he worked on his property. First, he built a concrete home, with radiant floor heating and cooling. It took him a few years.
Next, he decided to build the pond. This wasn’t going to be just your run-of-the-mill yard pond. He wanted an island in the middle, accessed by a sod bridge. And on the island, he wanted a gazebo.
He said the town council wasn’t too hot on the idea, and he spent quite some time fighting to get the permits. It was a fight he eventually won.
Today, the gazebo towers over the pond. A spiral staircase winds up to it, about 20 feet high. It’s built entirely out of scrap metal, welded together. George said it wasn’t easy to get the pieces of corrugated metal to fit together on the hexagonal structure, and he did it without computers.
“Just a pencil and paper and away you go,” he said.
George estimates he spent 200 hours on just the gazebo alone, and maybe 5,000 hours on everything else.
Despite all he’s done to the property over the years, it’s still a work in progress. In the gazebo, George is installing some lighting, a refrigerator, and a grill. Katie and George are filling the pond with bentonite to help seal it up, and work on the landscaping continues.
Meanwhile, the frog gazes up at the gazebo all day and all night.
Facing the highway, the happy amphibian smiles to passing traffic on Wyo. Highway 30, with his tongue sticking out. The frog may no longer be a resident of Powell, but he seems to have found a good home.