by Eve Fisher
With any luck, my husband and I just got back from a much-needed vacation, so here's an update from my friend Linda Thompson. She wrote this letter to a mutual friend of ours who lives in New York City, who likes to keep informed about life in Laskin, South Dakota...
...Every summer as you know, a friend of mine goes on a dig with a group of archaeologists. I've suggested that he could find really interesting things by staying in town and excavating my garden, but he just laughs. He has no idea what can get buried in a small town. Remember when Mary Olson killed her husband? That asparagus bed's still pretty lush... (I know, I know, it was never proven he was ever buried there, but you can re-read all about that here in "The Asparagus Bed".)
But the truth of the matter is, my friend only interested in dinosaurs.
Of course, America's been dinosaur-happy for a long time. I was, too, once, but I got over it when I learned that birds were direct descendants of dinosaurs, which sounds sillier in a book than it does watching a flock of pelicans. Pelicans are 30 million years old. Pelicans are sharks with wings. In flight they look like large albino pterodactyls, and I'll bet they'd whip the pants off of any leather-winged pterosaur stupid enough to not be extinct. On the water, they patrol the lake with the same carefree approach of prison search-lights on a moonless night with bloodhounds baying in the background. If I were a fish, they'd give me a heart attack. As it is, they just give me the willies.
Of course, once you start observing things like that, you can't stop. At least, I can't. I started watching the crows and flickers stalking my yard, head cocked, one eye staring cold and unblinking down at the ground until they spot their prey. Maybe I saw "The Birds" too young, along with "Psycho" and "Marlin Perkins' Wild America", but I believe birds spook more people than me: why else would carry-out fried chicken be available in every convenience store in America? It's our way of reassuring ourselves of our place on the food chain.
The reason I'm able to make all these observations is that my yard is the neighborhood wildlife sanctuary. Besides the birds, a tribe of rabbits comes and frolics on my lawn every night. This isn't because I leave out little nubbins of carrots and pretend that I'm Beatrix Potter. It's because I have the only chemical-free lawn on my block, full of dandelions, clover, and creeping charlie. (You can imagine how popular I am with my neighbors.) The rabbits love it. They eat and gambol and do all the things that rabbits do. They must stay up all night doing it, too, because morning always finds a couple of them sprawled out on the grass like limp cats. Sometimes a cat is sprawled out like a limp rabbit, not five feet away. Who's imitating whom, I don't know. All I know is that they're all too tuckered to move.
Now I don't mind the rabbits eating all the clover they can hold. I'm certainly not going to eat it. Nor do I mind them fraternizing with cats, although I think it proves the truth of the phrase "hare-brained". What I mind is this Roman-orgy atmosphere they give the place. The way some of them look, I expect to see little togas and vine-wreaths lying under the marigolds and zucchini.
And there's the problem. You see, my garden is in my front yard because it's the only place that gets enough sun to grow anything but moss. In any major urban center - say 12,000 and up - I would have been run out of town on a rail for plowing up perfectly good sod to grow vegetables.
But here in Laskin, it's a tourist attraction. Every walker in town stops at my chicken-wire fence and comments freely about the condition of my soil. My neighbors bring their out-of-town visitors over for the afternoon, which tells you something about the entertainment options of Laskin. I stepped outside one day and found a dozen people, none of whom I knew from Adam's off-ox, standing around wondering why I put the beans there, why my peppers weren't blooming, and what in the world was THAT? (Eggplant.)
No my North Forty is good clean family fun. It's also a lot of hard work. Note to Martha Stewart: the real key to a perfect garden is to put it in the front yard, where every weed becomes public knowledge. God knows that after years of this, my character has been thoroughly shredded, and what I should do is just quit, but that would start even more rumors...
I need an excuse, a reason, like an excavation. I believe there's something under the potato patch. We just haven't looked properly. I need professional archaeologists. After all there are dinosaurs on the property already, and it's not my fault if they've evolved to the point where they have feathers...
26 October 2017
21 July 2016
by Eve Fisher
by Eve Fisher
I believe that I have cracked the reason why summer brings out the apocalypse movies, not to mention movies and TV shows about killer sharks, vampires, zombies, serial killers, Animals Gone Wild, and (I'm still waiting) Batboy. It's a distraction from the fact that summer isn't all that it's cracked up to be. What with mosquitoes (West Nile, anyone? Zika?), ticks (Lyme, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever), killer heat (more on that later), and trying to figure out what SPF actually works and what pesticide won't kill you as well as the bugs, we need something where humans eventually WIN.
But this year is lusher, greener, wetter, and more infested than ever. And hot. It is very hot. As you read this, it's 98 degrees outside, and the endless square miles of corn have increased our humidity to the point where we are outdoing Mississippi. It's stiflingly hot. Thank God for air-conditioning.
NOTE: Let us all now give thanks and praise to Willis Carrier, who in 1902 invented the first air-conditioning system. May his memory be eternally green. And cool.But to get back to infestations. We've seen them before, especially the Great Frog Infestation back in the 90s. Personally, I didn't mind the frogs. They were small, they moved quickly, and they tried to stay hidden. They only bothered me when I was mowing the lawn. For one thing, they froze as I came near, hoping (as most of us do) that if they ignored the problem (me and the lawnmower), it would go away. I got to the point where I'd carry a small broom and prod them into moving with it while I mowed. "What did you do Saturday?" "Swept frogs." Sometimes when they still wouldn't budge, I'd just pick them up and move them, while they expressed their gratitude all over my hands. Frogs are not toilet trained.
|Boreal Choral Frog|
Photographer - Tnarg 12345 on Wikipedia
The mosquitoes alone would be bad enough, but they're getting serious competition from the gnats. There aren't as many of them - at least, I hope there aren't - but their bites leave golf to softball sized swellings on ears, eyes, necks, etc. It's getting unnerving to go out in public. Half the people I see look like they've been in a fist fight, the other half are calomine-pink, and we're all in the same blithe mood the nation was in the night Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast. The air reeks of Deet, Skin-So-Soft, Off, and every other insect repellent known to man and we still can't stand outside more than two minutes without acting like Larry, Curly, and Moe.
So what do we do about this enemy invasion? Some people are moving down South, where they think all they'll have to deal with is cockroaches and kudzu. (There are also fire ants and even more mosquitoes.) Kudzu, for those of you who haven't heard of it, is a Japanese plant that some idiot imported for ground cover on poor soil. It can't be killed by drought, floods, fire, pestilence, or famine, and it grows a foot a day. There's a theory that it was left by UFO's on one of their human-tagging trips, but I think it's just a vicious predator. The one good thing about it is that it can't stand severe frost, and so South Dakota is free... until we get warmer...
|Kudzu growing on trees in Georgia|
Photographer - Scott Ehardt, Wikipedia
Anyway, back to solutions:
(1) Buy a bee-keeper's hat or a surplus space suit. You'll sweat to death, but you will be bug free.
(2) Don't go outside. Summer is highly overrated. It's hot, it's buggy, and people keep expecting you to do things, most of which involve a lot of work, which involves a lot of sweating, while overheated and in full sun. What we really love about summer is our nostalgia for the days when we were kids and didn't have to do anything except go swimming and eat watermelon. (What we forget is how much time we spent whining about how there wasn't anything to DO.) So turn on the AC, the blender, grab a stack of mysteries - I know some very good authors, many of whom are on this site, so check them out! - and stay indoors. All the fun, a lot less danger.
Latorilla at Wikipedia
But even if one of them does happen to transform into an orthodontically-challenged count with a bad accent and receding hairline, a little garlic and a wooden stake will take care of the problem.
The odds are good: one count vs. the swarm.
One against many.
Think about it.