By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
Nestled beside a swamp off a quiet country road, Frog Town is hard to find and impossible to forget. Before you enter, your last sign of civilization is a white stucco gas station and convenience store that seems to ask, Do you really have any business around here?
Those who carry on find themselves driving past grazing cattle and over a rickety one-lane wooden bridge with half its guardrails missing. Spanish moss dripping from live oaks and boggy water along the unpaved road are solid warnings that nature still rules around Frog Town. A flood a few years back overtook the bridge and left families stranded for 19 days.
Frog Town, as the Nixons call home, looks like a Hobby Lobby and a junkyard exploded and the debris mated on the way down. Cindy says her decorating ideas came from magazines, but none of the cookie-cutter beauty in Better Homes and Gardens rivals her singular vision.
Wooden planks form the route to the Nixons' front yard, which displays rocking horses, knee-high mailboxes, discarded lawn mowers, fishing rods and segments of white picket fences.
On the way to the blue house trailer, visitors duck beneath white lace, bird cages and potted plants hanging from almost every tree limb in the forest of their yard. Christmas lights outline painted wooden boards nailed to trees and carrying messages like "Frog Dance Tonite at 8," "No City Slickers" and "God Laughs in Flowers." On a tree above a clothesline holding pink old-timey britches, a sign implores, "Bless My Bloomers." Similar signage points out landmarks like Mosquito Meadow and Toad Abode. Painted doors lean against some of the trees. On one is the Christmas favorite Frosty, beneath the words "In the meadow, we can build a snowman."
A bathtub serves as an outdoor goldfish aquarium. A sign pokes out of it saying, "Catch and Release." The only things under lock and key are the bicycles, the Nixons' most valuable possessions.
Chief among Frog Town's self-ordained ordinances is "Thou shall not covet." This includes coveting a reliable automobile with air-conditioning.
Until late this year, the Nixons drove to the races in an aging blue Lincoln Town Car. They replaced it with an old black Lincoln Town Car. After an Oklahoma race last spring, the car broke down in the Central Texas town of Madisonville.
Repairs would take a few days, but the kids had to get back to school. Breanna's boyfriend, BMX pro racer Tim Kneip, lives about an hour away in Conroe, but Cindy didn't want him picking them up. Cindy and Eddie insisted on remaining with their car. The family slept in it the first night, then stayed in a hotel for two more nights. The kids missed four days of school, but the family did not violate Frog Town Ordinance No. 2: "Thou shall not spend the night in someone else's home."
They returned to their 14- by 80-foot trailer with its unorthodox interior design. Layers of quilts, afghans and sheets cover the floor and furniture, and the living room overflows with years' worth of trophies. There are so many the family covered dozens of them behind a mountain of white teddy bears, with a few Winnie the Poohs thrown in for color.
Wherever the walls aren't painted with butterflies or clouds, they're plastered with newspaper clippings and photographs of the children's racing exploits. "No one will ever sit on their seat when they race my daughters," Cindy says with a smile. An otherwise modest woman, she can talk endlessly about her daughters' accomplishments in a friendly, down-home accent.
Cindy trains the girls at the parking lot of a soccer field a few miles from Frog Town. They shoot as fast as they can between two "Do Not Enter" signs along the access road to the lot.
They do two sets of seven sprints between the signs, about 42 feet apart, as Cindy times them with her wristwatch. Misty "Boogie Baby" is hard enough on herself that Cindy doesn't have to fuss at her. She's only nine, but she has an adult's determination. Mandy "The Maniac" needs more prodding from her mother. Mandy rides more smoothly, keeping her body still and her head down as she darts between the signs, yet it's Mandy who's broken her collarbone twice.
While the coaching duties rest squarely on Cindy, Eddie is the provider. The 39-year-old welder works as many hours as he can get and says he makes more than enough to support his family. Usually wearing a baseball cap or a do-rag, laid-back Eddie doesn't speak much, so his words take on weight. This is why he can tell his boss, "I'm gonna go when it's race time, whether you want me to go or not," and still have a job when he gets back.
They know their home is a bit quirky, but they're fulfilled by owning their own land. On an early October afternoon, Misty and Mandy slip into black boots and head to a metal ladder leaning against a tree. They climb up and reach for the leather strap dangling about 15 feet above ground. It's tied to a rope hanging from a vine. They take turns stepping off the ladder and onto the strap and they're off like Tarzan.
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