The Star-News


Big problem from small source

Sat, Jul 20 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Peña

I sometimes wonder how a creature so small in size, can be the source of such discomfort. The other day – Sunday to be exact – if you recall, was one of those days that drives most sane people to the beaches or the movie houses or anywhere that is going to give them a bit of respite from the heat. Even though there was a breeze blowing the thermometer was hovering around the 90 mark. It definitely was AC weather even without the extreme heat.

My daughter Margaret and her husband, Gregg, had dropped in for a few days and since they are accustomed to Sacramento weather — not exactly frigid — my little AC in the living room was going to see service, big time. The AC, coupled with a series of various fans of various sizes should keep them somewhat comfortable if not as cool as to what their Sacramento digs could offer.

I had other ideas. I strolled out to my barn’s deck and noted that the temperature at 93 degrees did not seem that warm.  The deck is, of course, shaded and there was a pleasant breeze blowing in from the north. A northern breeze, I will recall from my growing up years in Texas, was always the harbinger of a change in the weather.

Maybe it could mean something here. But most things that are “Texas” remain “Texas” and no one, not even transient Californians are going to change them.

I, nevertheless, set my lounge in the center of the shaded part, kicked off my shoes, and settled in for what I thought was going to be a pleasant summer nap.  And it would have been had it not been for that small creature I mentioned earlier. Can you imagine a Sunday nap permanently interrupted by a tiny ant?

As kids we grew up in a world of insects. There were ants of all sizes and descriptions and there were spiders and scorpions and other similar creatures.  We were instructed to shake out our shoes in the morning before dressing for fear of scorpions that liked a dark environment.  A scorpion bite was not pleasant.  It did not kill you but you wished it had. Sometimes in the summer time we went for days without wearing shoes. On these occasions one had to take special care when shoe time did get around. I recall finding an entire colony of scorpions in one of my shoes, all set up for the duration, that, in their particular lifetime was not to last too long.

The ones we hated the most, mainly because they could hurt more, were the flying insects. These were tough cookies. There were wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, ticks and others that I cannot remember. They were so formidable a foe that some high schools adopted them as mascots, the St. Henry Hornets, for example.  If a kid came home crying from a bite and the mother would ask what was it the stock answer was always, “It was a bee.”  Poor bee always got blamed and he was the only one who did any good with his job in the honey factory.

I remember an incident at the 6th grade school camp at Cuyamaca back in my teaching days. I was accompanying a small group on a hike when one of the campers, a small delicate girl as I recall, stepped on one of those insect ground nests.  The entire colony, it seemed, attacked her and I think her cries were heard all the way back in San Diego. She was treated with a liberal amount of Calamine Lotion and in a short while was good as new.  And with a memorable tale to relate when she got back home.

After the ant bites last Sunday I gave up on my outdoors nap and came inside to see if anything else could go wrong.  I turned on the ball game and cringed when I thought my TV was broken. Dick Engbert announced that the Padres were leading the San Francisco Giants 10 to 1. But when I was convinced that the score was true I stayed in and watched the end of the game.  What the heck!  Beats ant bites.


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