Paulette Campbell, a native of this swampy crossroads, has an appointment to get her hair done at Shelba's Beauty Shop in nearby Peaks, Va. So, she left behind a little note explaining what Frog Level means to her.
It said: "When we have a rainy season every mud puddle and all the ponds are full of croaking frogs. I don't know where they come from, but they sure sound like a frog symphony. We call it the Frog Level Symphony."
Frog Level is wet this time of year and the symphony is open to the public. Anyone driving north out of Richmond on Rte. 301 can step on the brakes between the towns of Dawn and Lorne (pronounced Lawn), pull off the road and thrill to the ringing songs of spring peepers and the lilting melodies of American toads.
Paulette Campbell's husband, P.T. (Happy) Campbell, has lived in Frog Level all his life and says he's continuously thrilled to be here. Campbell, a wiry man who doesn't claim to be a tourist attraction himself ("It took me 69 years to get this ugly"), has spent a decade trying to share his joy with others and make a few dollars at the same time.
Campbell, who formerly owned the Campbell-Terrell Telephone Company serving some 600 customers in the greater Frog Level area, is the creator of the Frog Level hat, the Frog Level patch and a variety of parades, raffles and spaghetti dinners aimed at what in other areas of the country might be called raising Frog Level consciousness.
"My main idea was that little drawin' on the hats. The idea came from the Lord. It is a frog sitting on a carpenter's level with a water hose. The picture looks like it sounds: Frog Level," explains Campbell.
Campbell is president of the Frog Level Volunteer Fire Company and all the money he has raised in the last 10 years has gone to pay off a $69,000 debt on the fire department's trucks and equipment. The Frog Level hats, which come in a variety of colors and in both summer and winter designs, have been selling at $4 each nearly as fast as Campbell can order them.
"We never had hats sell like that," said Katherine Kelly, proprietor of Kelly's Country Store in nearby Hanover Court House.The store sells the hats as a community service. One day last week, the store sold all five of its alloted hats. "I was surprised," said Mrs. Kelly.
The hats have been such a hot item that Campbell, who's sold some 340 of them in five months, says he's begun to rip the patches off other hats (such as Mack truck and STP oil treatment patches) in order to sew on Frog Level patches. He does it, he says, to insure Frog Level against fire.
There is not all that much to burn in Frog Level. It lies only about 200 feet above sea level and water stands around in puddles, marshes and slow moving creeks nearly everywhere in the two-mile-wide, five-mile-long community. m
In the "downtown" area, there's a mulch plant, Jim's "301" Market (which has "No Public Restroom"), the Burger Shoppe Drive-Inn (closed until summer), a children's zoo with no animals (apparently closed forever) and the fire station. About 100 houses are spread across the outlying reaches of Frog Level.
In those houses, frogs are a constant, murmuring presence.
Stuart Acors, owner and chief mechanic with Acor Peformance Enneering in the outskirts of town, says he hears the frogs through the open windows of his garage while working on racing engines in the late afternoon and evening.
"They really raise Cain," says Acors, who tells people that he's from Frog Level when he's attending auto races around the country. "What else can I say? The frogs have a peaceful, humming sound."
Another resident of Frog Level, Nancy Barlow, reports a frog incursion on her porch this spring. She says it is a tree frog with light green coloring who seems to croak when it is going to rain. Barlow is not certain what kind of tree frog it is.
Dr. Charles R. Blem, a biologist with a special interest in frogs who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, says he knows what kind of tree frog it isn't. Blem says the barking tree frog, which literally barks -- like a dog, has for the first time in recorded history been seen and heard this year in Virginia. But it has not yet made it to Frog Level.
The barking tree frog, native to northern Florida and south Georgia, has been marching north in recent years and this spring has halted on the south side of the James River, Blem says.
"The frog can't figure out how to get across the river," he speculates.
Paulette Campbell, when she returned home after Shelba's Beauty Shop one afternoon last week, said she agrees with the biologist that the barking tree frog has not yet joined the Frog Level symphony.
She says that she, along with her husband and other longtime Frog Level residents, would be the first to know.