Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

Last night my friend Trieste was recalling a terrifying Mount Hood horsefly incident from her youth.

This was all it took to induce a flashback to my family's summer picnics at Lake Independence (a public recreation area just outside of Minneapolis).

That's me upper left, creating a slacker pyramid with my siblings and our neighbors, the Russeth kids. Mysteriously absent from the photo are the hundreds of horseflies we'd battle on our way from the picnic table to the murky and lukewarm water.

Aside: Dad would strap a giant orange airplane inner tube onto the roof of the Country Squire station wagon for these outings. (We'd take turns making our moms nervous by floating too far out in the lake.) But then one year our route to the beach led us past the archery range, and, well, you don't have to be a professional humor writer to guess the punchline of that one.

Back to the scary bugs, though. Those horseflies were stupid and slow. They'd flail around in your face and then crash into you with a thud. And when they bit you? It hurt like hell. We're talking serious welts.

Steve can't remember horseflies from his childhood on Long Island. The comparable pests in that part of the world are something called "greenhead" flies.

Similarly, we didn't have chiggers in Minnesota, nor did we deal with "no-see-ums," the mysterious bugs whose nasty little bites I doctored on my sons' arms and legs after watching the fireworks at Shawnee Mission Park one year.

Of course, it's the mosquito that's the legendary hardship for my Nordic people. It's taken me awhile to get used to sleeping on a summer night without being awakened at least once by the hum of a skeeter in my ear.

Oh, and speaking of loud insects...what's the deal with cicadas? It's just wrong for insects to be larger than mice.


redbird said...

those horseflies (they were actually on rainier, not hood)... they were vicious mean, i tell you! to this day, i can pick up snakes or do minor electrical repair work without fear. but do not put me near anything that both buzzes and bites.
when i first moved here, i heard the cicadas for my first time one night and i thought it was the sound of a broken power transformer outside my window. i thought it was going to explode.

Jas P. said...

Are these horseflies the same as blackflies? Aren't blackflies a big problem in Minnesota? I seem to remember a summer church camp where we spent a week living in terror of them.

Remember the 17-year cicadas, a few years back? I was researching at some shop in Parkville that summer, squatting down to examine this stunning, prehistoric-looking, red-eyed cicada the size of a baby's foot. And the shopkeeper had his door open and was standing there, so I walk up to him talking about how amazing this thing is, and he's about to come out and take a look, so I turn back, but this old lady who'd followed me up the sidewalk is now standing over the cicada, staring at it... and then she just picks up her foot--way up, like she's trying to stand on a chair--and STOMPS the thing to smithereens.

Nature is fun.

mol the doll said...

Redbird, factual inaccuracies like the Rainier/Hood problem are what have prevented me
from becoming a famous journalist!

I'll bet the Mount Hood horseflies aren't much better.

I'm not familiar with the term "blackflies." It has an Amityville Horror ring to it.

Eric Weslander said...

I always thought no-see-ums were the same thing as chiggers. Sorry to go on ad no-see-um.

LHOOQ said...

jas p., I deduce that you were researching in Parkville during the summer of 1998, the year that both the 13-year and the 17-year periodical cicadas emerged.

Fun with bugmath: The 13- and 17-year cicadas will emerge at the same time only once every 221 years. The fact that 17 and 13 are primes reduces the chances of interbreeding among different populations of 17- and 13-year cicadas

We who live in the woods still talk about working outdoors that year. The eruption of 13 + 17 year cicadas pulsed in the trees with a head-vibrating buzz that became a distinct "woosh" whenever they changed trees to resume their buzzzzzzzzzz.

mol the doll said...

T.G. for Google. Chiggers & no-see-ums are, in fact, different entities.

Eric Weslander said...

Sorry, but that doesn't fit with my world view.