|Where I'm From|
|“...coulda fixed him right up”|
by Jim Allen
Let it be known that, even though I understand the importance of wasps in the grand scheme of things, I still don’t have to like them.
Back where I’m from, it had rained about every weekend that spring and early summer and my father was a little late getting the ski boat out for us to go riding on the lake near our house. I was about seven and my younger brother and I took turns being pulled on a tractor inner tube.
My brother was second to be pulled that day and I sat in the back passenger side seat, shivering in the wind. Behind the front seat was a compartment just big enough for me to get in and, maybe, warm up. I crawled in at an upright fetal position and promptly stuck the left side of my face in a red wasp nest.
I’m told that I got stung five times that day; I just remember that it hurt. Upon seeing my state of delirium, a friend of Pop’s who, along with his wife, was sharing the weekend with us back at the camp, immediately pulled a huge, near golf ball size wad of chewing tobacco from his left jaw and started putting bits of it on my swollen wounds.
I squirmed and squalled even louder, more in utter disgust than pain, as slobber and tobacco juice ran down all sides of my head, into my ears and down my neck. "Be still and stop yer hollerin’, boy!" he growled with bug-eyed excitement. "You jist lucky I happened to be here. This Bloodhound’s gonna fix you right up."
"Getting fixed right up" wasn’t very reassuring to a second-grader, especially coming from a man with mahogany-colored teeth and permanent tobacco stains running from both corners of his mouth and down his chin.
Several years later, again with my brother, I went exploring; walking several miles down the river near our house with our trusted German Shepard, Tore.
About three hours into our trip we noticed Tore, who’d gotten about a hundred yards ahead of us, snapping at the air all around her. That was peculiar enough but then she started running around in a tight circle and finally fell on the ground flopping like a fish out of water.
We ran toward her at just about the same time she ran, screaming toward us…followed by a thick cloud of yellow jackets. We were young and could fly like the wind but we weren’t anywhere near as fast as a dog getting the stew stung out of her by hundreds of angry wasps.
Within seconds my brother and I were swatting, Tore was snapping and all three of us were screaming. Tore finally took the lead and we followed suit, hightailing out of the woods toward an open field. We made it to the road and, because of our apparent sorry state, were offered several rides by passersby but I wouldn’t let my brother get in the car with any strangers. I think he still holds that against me.
We finally limped the three miles back to the house. He ended up with twenty-one stings to my fifteen. No tobacco juice this time, just a couple of stiff shots of Benadryl and a long nap.
Tore went under the house and didn’t come out until the next afternoon. For the rest of her long life she was afraid of houseflies, moths, butterflies…anything that flew.
About a month ago, I was in the Co-op looking over some pre-emergence herbicides for my lawn when I overheard a man hurridly explaining to a clerk what he needed, "Waust spway! Waust spway! Day dot me awl ober my hid!" He used a few other words that I can’t print describing the experience he had apparently just had.
I discreetly pushed around products and peeped through the bags and cans on the shelves to see what this man was so excited about and why he sounded like he was chewing on a wet dishrag. The poor guy was, by then, being handed a big green can of Bengal Wasp and Hornet spray.
One of his eyes was purplish/green and swollen totally shut. His tongue was sticking out of his mouth like a stomped toad. His clothes and hair were disheveled; sweat drenched and speckled with dried grass. He had apparently been stung by wasps several times on his head and was anxious to get revenge.
After the fellow had stormed out of the store and scratched off in the parking lot, obviously on a mission, the Co-op employee started a conversation with the man’s buddy that came with him to the store in a separate pick-up.
Everybody in the store gathered around to listen, "Bill and I were looking for wasp nests in our club’s shooting boxes. I had gone in the first stand to check for nests and hadn’t found any, so I stayed on the ground while Bill climbed the second ladder. He stuck his head in the doorway and found a large spider web on the opposite wall. He aimed his wasp spray at the web only to find the spray valve clogged. He climbed on in the box to tear the web down and stuck his head right square in a guinea wasp nest the size of a pie pan.
"You know, Bill’s not a small person; kinda built like a sack of potatoes, but he bounded out the door of that thing like he was lighter than air; like Superman, with total disregard to the fact that he was a good fifteen feet off the ground. He landed belly first, bounced off the ground, rolled a couple of times then landed on his feet in a full gallop all the time slapping his head.
"Once he recovered from getting the breath knocked out of him, he started screaming like a school girl. I’ve never seen Bill move much faster than cold molasses and didn’t know he could cuss until today. He said he’s not allergic to wasps but from the looks of his head, he ain’t exactly immune to ’em either! I thought he was having some sort of reaction when we got back to the trucks ’cause he got real sick. He said it was just because he had swallowed his chaw of tobacco when he hit the ground."
Too bad…that tobacco juice coulda fixed him right up.