Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I think wasps and yellow jackets take anatomy training or perhaps a bee class in advanced torture techniques, because they have a knack for stinging you right where it hurts the most.
The last time I was stung, I was wearing a pair of sandals as I walked down to fetch the morning mail. A day or two earlier, I had thrown out a watermelon rind for the pecking pleasure of Flossy and Mossy (our two chickens), and it seems the only creatures on earth that love watermelon rinds more than chickens, is yellow jackets. As I ambled down to the mailbox, apparently I ventured a little too close to the rind because one of those evil little monsters somehow got between my toes and stung the dickens out of me.
Everybody has a wasp-sting story. My nephew Haven was clearing underbrush around one of his hunting spots a few weeks ago. He had his weed-eater going full bore when he got into a yellow jacket’s nest. Several flew up his pants leg to begin their handiwork and by the time he realized he was in trouble, several more had flown through an opening in the back of his baseball cap stinging him on his head.
He dropped the weed-eater and tore out running like his shirt was on fire. They continued to chase and sting. Finally, he fought those little yellow demons off with a pine top.
When he recovered, he returned for the weed-eater and it was still idling there on the ground. The vibration of that little engine had the yellow-jackets in a stinging frenzy. He left it there until it ran out of gas and only then could retrieve it using his stealth mode.
I used to climb poles for Ma Bell and I learned a very valuable lesson about wasps the first week.
One morning I strapped on my climbing gaffs and stomped up a poled to connect a wire for a new phone. The sun was warm on my back and a breeze out of the west was mild. I could smell the customer’s roses and gardenias. All in all, it was a good day to be alive.
My mind was a thousand miles away as I opened the little rubber telephone cable terminal where the phone wires attach. As I unfastened the latches, I could hear a faint buzzing but I was oblivious to the fact that a red wasp nest as big as a softball was just inches from my face. The instant I opened the flap, they were all over me like cheap cologne. Before I could utter a cuss-word (for some reason I tend to cuss like a sailor when I get stung), I got stung about eight times around my eyes and nose. Another issue was that I was thirty feet in the air and running was not an option. So I furiously swatted and flailed as I descended a telephone pole in about ten seconds flat. I don’t think they had an Olympic event for descending poles back then, but if they had, I’m certain I would have taken home the gold that morning.
By the time I arrived back at the work center, my face looked like I had gone ten rounds with George Foreman back before he started selling grills.
I know the Good Lord put those vicious little bugs on the earth for a reason, but for the life of me, I can’t think of one.

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