Monday, July 25, 2016

Up the Lake: Bugs Part 2

Crickets heralded the coming of August.  Virtually no noise in July, then the tree tops sang for the whole next month, fading out when September dawned.  I wonder where they got tiny little calendars?

The August noisemakers were of the small black variety of that species.  Although there were even smaller black ones.

Down by the lake were little critters that were normally indistinguishable from grains of sand.  Stepping near them would lead to impressive hops (of the bugs as well) and the stepper usually exclaiming, "Woo!"  Thanks to the remarkable skills of Up the Lake nomenclature that brought us "The Rock, " "The Field," and "The Second Field" these tiny guys were christened, "Woo Bugs."  Since they lived right at the water's edge I wished to learn if they were aquatic.  Repeated attempts at getting them to "Woo" in a lakewards direction were met with utter failure.  I figured the proper solution was to carry my experiment out towards the rope.  I picked up a Woo Bug with slightly delayed reflexes, and carried him out to deep water on the tip of my finger.  Instead of Wooing into the water, it Wooed directly on top of my head.  We're fortunate that it was already named a "Woo Bug," otherwise it's name would be unprintable.

Other, green and brown relatives showed up any time in the summer and could be considerably more massive.  Their size, coupled with outstanding leaping ability could startle the hardiest of Up the Lake folk.

During a card game one night I felt something impact on my shin.  I lifted the tablecloth and saw a giant thing with compound eyes staring at me.  There may have been some little girly noises as I leapt up from the table, but in all the confusion it’s hard to recall.  It turned out to be a harmless, if oversize, grasshopper. Once I focused better, things should have been under control.  Unfortunately, when the rest of the table saw “bug man” jump and scream…chaos and panic reigned once more for an extended portion of the evening.

Because of my previous experience, I was completely sympathetic when my sister called for aid from the bedroom as she was putting her children to sleep.  I found her and the kids in a precariously balanced screaming pile, poised to plop unceremoniously off the far side of the mattress.
This was because a big honkin’ cave cricket looking thing had hopped onto the night table by the near side of the mattress.

The resultant panic came from two sources. 

The second was: “Ginormous, unidentified, ugly bug on the night table.”

The first was the reason it was not immediately identified.
It had leaped directly in front of the lantern, and therefore cast a horrifying and monstrous shadow on the wall above the not soon to be sleeping any time in the foreseeable future children.

If harmless little ol’ cricket bugs could lead to those levels of confusion, one could easily imagine the disasters pain inducing insects could bring about.

Before anyone starts in: Yes, I am fully aware bees are an important part of our ecosystem.  Most of us could easily ignore ones or small gangs that passed by on their way to pollinate. In fact, a Joe or two maintained hives in an unused section of forest up there for a couple of years.

Having said that, anyone else who has shared real estate with an entire agitated colony of the little monsters in what they viewed as their homeland instantly realized the importance of a “them or us” mentality.

We had many “clubs” growing up.  The Up the Lake definition of club is, “A group of rocks far from being viewed by wherever the parents are hanging out.”

One year, we staked our claim to a fashionable set of boulders jutting out of the Earth atop a long and winding path behind our outhouse.

Yes, we had chosen a location well into the high rent district.

Nick, Danny and I were conducting important club business.
Translation: Hanging around, and eating cookies.

The first indication that our business would be interrupted was when we felt slight prickles in various spots on our person, and we were all going, “Ooh, Ow, Ooch,” and slapping ourselves.

I was sadly unaware that a squashed bee releases the alarm chemical that incited her hive mates into a state between a riot and a feeding frenzy.

The three of us rather abruptly came to the conclusion that we had trod on a nest of ground dwelling yellow jackets.  They responded to our invasion by attacking from all directions, but mostly flying up our pants.

The resulting number of stings on my legs guaranteed it was the last time I wore long pants Up the Lake until going on blood thinners.

Cookies were dropped in the dirt as we tore, emitting shrieks and yowls, straight down the hill. Any twists and turns in the path were summarily ignored.  Dan had a bee allergy, and therefore outpaced us significantly, shooting directly past our cabins to reach own place containing his medicines.

His danger spared him from the after effects Nick and I had to deal with.

The two of us ran into my kitchen cabin looking for help. My Mom, Grandma and some friends were presumably having a fun and restful afternoon before we showed up with jeans full of bees.

To say the level of screaming increased would be a vast understatement.

Johanna engaged in a tug of war with Nick to free him from his infested leggings, leading her (or my with any Up the Lake events, the details of which Italian Mother was screaming get lost in the shuffle sometimes) to shout in his face, “NICKY THIS IS NO TIME TO BE MODEST!!!”

The formerly relaxing women threw us out the door in one direction, our jeans in another and set about swatting anything still humming about in the kitchen.

Naturally, the commotion attracted every single person Up the Lake, and possibly from as far as Poughkeepsie.  Phyllis explained they all knew what happened, because we had unleashed, “The bee scream.”  Asking for clarification, she explained that every other animal (snake, spider, mouse, giant killer octopus) results in screaming the animal’s name, where as the “bee scream” is high pitched, unintelligible agony.

In case anyone is wondering…

There is absolutely no way to look cool amidst a milling crowd of onlookers who just heard you emitting noises like an over enthusiastic smoke alarm, while standing there in your underwear while a squadron of parents spray raid on your pants across the campsite.

Encounters like these, happened to far too many of us.

In fact, my cousin Lauren hit a nest years later up on that same hill, because we value tradition Up the Lake.

She was much younger than we were, causing more worry about the multiple stings. It was also later on, meaning the option of Benadryl was readily available.  All we were offered for our ordeal was public shame, and itching.

They gave her two antihistamines, guaranteeing the bites would not swell up…and she would not get up for about a fortnight.

I took her friend Kate down the Lake while Lauren enjoyed her coma and we had another animal encounter.  Kate was standing in front of me looking into the weeds, when I casually (if foolishly) pointed out, “Look, a snake.”

I’d never seen a little girl perform a reverse standing leap directly on to my shoulders before. It was quite impressive.

Enough of these encounters led to the need to remove any of their sting filled homes from the immediate vicinity of our homes.  For my Grandparent’s generation, who believed bleach and flaming petroleum were personal hygiene and home maintenance products, there was only one way to deal with a ground nest.

When night would fall, and all the little yellow jackets were sleeping peacefully, Grandpa would pour kerosene down the hole and toss in a lighted match.

A *whumph!*
A fading *Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*
And a small blue flame from the hole…

Signaled the end of the invading colony.

Granted he did set the sandbox on fire on more than one occasion, but acceptable casualties are the byproduct of all wars.

For paper wasp nests on the eaves, we were forced to select a more high-tech solution.  The twenty-five foot range death hose in a can bug spray.  Chrissy’s cabin wasn’t used for a long stretch one year, and when they returned a half dozen or so wasp condominiums had been set up around the edges of the roof.

I went down to help, dual wielding killer cans.  The attack was never done with only one can, because of the blistering assault that would result if it ran dry before finishing a nest.  I circled the house insuring all small children in the family would remain sting free with my twin battle spritzers and a broom to finish the job.

I got a startling demonstration of the potency of that stuff on the way home.  A deerfly landed on my arm, and my swat missed since the nasty little flying pair of jaws was positioned between two of my fingers.  This was not the first time in my life constantly making the Vulcan salute was a bad idea.   However, thanks to the bits of stuff that dripped onto my fingers with each sortie against a nest, the nasty little bugger dropped dead with no physical contact whatsoever.

Then I washed my hands before dinner…for about an hour and half.


longbow said...
If I ever see him live I'm going to make a suit with the letter "B" sewn all about

Jeff McGinley said...

Great bit, thanx for the reminder. Will you get that suit before or after the "Henna Husband Material" shirt?

I'm proud to say that though she hasn't seen the bit, my daughter knows enough Izzard by osmosis to quote that one when appropriate.