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Great Balls of Fire Ants

If you live in the muggy buggy South, you soon learn that insect repellant is as vital to survival as holy water is to Catholics. But, I have yet to find anything that repels wasps, hornets, bumblebees, and Satan’s Spawn…the mighty fire ant (Solenopsis xyloni).fireants These demons are native to South America, and they can have them back. This is another reason we need immigration laws, but that is a topic for those who like to write political rants.

For the uneducated, mainly those lucky enough to live in Northern stars, fire ants build huge dinner plate sized, 10-inch high mounds over night. These mounds house at a minimum, 8 zillion biting, stinging demons who hate everybody and everything. If it moves, they sting it.

Having co-existed with these demons for 17 years, I know that  woringk in my yard in anything less than a suit of armor is asking for trouble, but, but this week I ventured  into the broiling 90 plus degree heat to pull weeds and trim back dying plants in my swimsuit and sandals.  My reasoning was: This skimpy garb will allow me to take frequent dips in our pool which might spare me heat exhaustion, which by the way I have had twice this summer.

I was focused on cutting back dead plants, not where I was walking and my nearly bare foot stomped on a fire ant hill.  In a flash hundreds of ants were on my feet and legs. These ants can’t be brushed off your body because they have pinchers in the front that hold on to your skin while their business end, the back end, injects a powerful venom into your body.ant bites They also can’t be drowned.  When they attack, your skin feels as if it has been burned. Within seconds your skin is  red, inflamed and covered with pus filled pockets of venom. Yes, I know this is too much information, but I want you to feel my pain.

For minutes I was a screaming whirling dervish, swatting my legs, diving into the pool, and cursing all insects.

Solutions for the pain: benedryl, vinegar, and strong adult beverages. None work for very long.

Solutions for the ants: Flame throwers, napalm, agent Orange, DDT, and better insect immigration laws.

 

If you have had an encounter with Fire ants, post your experience. Share the pain.

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Goodness Gracious, Snakes Alive!

cypress kneesI’ve lived in the muggy, buggy swamps of south Louisiana for seventeen years. I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with fire ants, stinging caterpillars, mosquitoes the size of small drones, and wasps, but mercifully I’ve been spared snakes until this year.

One encounter is more than enough for me, and any more than that means we have an epidemic of  Biblical proportions. This year the seven plagues Pharaoh suffered is nothing compared to my snake encounters.

My first snake encounter occurred about three weeks ago. I was enjoying a leisurely swim in our pool, alone, because the Sicilian does not enter the water until it reaches bathtub heat of 90 degrees. He and Spot the Wonder Dog were on the patio playing chase the ball. (Spot chasing, the Sician throwing.)

Suddenly the Sicilian stands and yells, “Come here, Spot. Come here right now.” Heimg_1689 opened the back door. “Get in the house.”

Spot runs into the house and just before the Sicilian entered I yelled,  “Why are you going inside? It’s nice out here.”

“There is big black snake here. I don’t want Spot to fool with it.”

The door snapped shut. My response  was spoken to the wind, “What about your wife? You’re leaving me out here alone when a snake is rampaging through our yard?” I was not a happy camper having been left to fend for myself.

The following week I left for Nebraska where it was so cold snakes were still hibernating. On a late night phone call to the Sicilian, he told me, “Tyler (a thirteen year old neighbor boy) came over this afternoon and said his mother needed me. I followed him across the street. When I asked him what his mother wanted, Tyler said, ‘There’s a big black snake on our patio and my dad won’t be home for two hours, You have to get rid of it.’”

“So what did you do?” I asked.

“Tyler checked snakes on his phone,” the Sicilian said, “and we identified the beast as a rat snake, not poisonous. His mom wanted me to kill it, but I just chased it off their patio with a broom into the creek.”

“So, you helped her, but abandoned your wife to deal with the snake in our back yard?”  I think he sensed the venom in my voice 1200 miles away.

snake by house 2And then…  a week later I opened the front door to walk to our curbside mail box and was greeted by  a huge snake less than three feet from the door. My scream broke the sound barrier. Spot had run past the snake toward the mailbox; I yelled for her to return inside, which she did. If she hadn’t obeyed, she would have been on her own. I love the little mutt, but when it comes to snakes, it is every man and dog for themselves.

The Sicilian rose from the couch to check out the commotion. We cautiously went outside. I was poised to run. We watched the snake quickly slither past a flowerpot and disappear. The Sicilian moved the pot, no snake.

“Where is it?”

“Not to worry,” says the Sicilian, it’s harmless rat snake.

“Harmless? To who? My heart has been stressed to the max, my throat is sore from thesnake by house screaming, and I’m a nervous wreck.”  Seconds later I discovered the three-foot snake curled up looking mean and evil ten feet from where I was standing.

The Sicilian said, “It won’t hurt you,” as he beat feet into the house and shut the door. So much for my visions of the Sicilian being my snake charmer.

I am now on high alert.

(By the way, the 3 dead snakes I have seen on my daily walk with Spot are the only good snakes I have seen this year.)

Baptism by Oops

stupid-signSheesh, my Daddy used to say when a situation defied normal expressions of surprise. That word, and that word alone sums up my past week.  After reading this, some of you may say clumsy, inattention, stupidity, and feebleness might be a better word, but I’m sticking with Sheesh.
Tuesday, walking on flat concrete, in full daylight, I managed to make a swan dive onto the concrete. My right hip took a blow, and my fist landed under me bruising my “right airbag.” The Sicilian not wanting to embarrass mebruised-breast referred to my breast as an airbag when relating my fall to his golf partner.. Suffice it to say my burlesque career is over. If this had been Fat Tuesday, AKA. Mardi Gras, my purple green and gold breast would have been in style, but in Mid-September it is just painful.
After this tumble, which thankfully was witnessed by no one, I decided to be more careful.  Needing to touch up the mural on our fence, I put on my New Balance shoes for two reasons, (1) to give me stable footing on our uneven yard, and(2) to protect me from the fire ants that hide in the plants near the mural.  I put on my swimming suit, as the day was hot and I planned to swim afterwards, a fish-designed shirt which was ancient, but one of my favorites, and of course my solar shield sunglasses over my regular glasses. Add a ball cap as a visor and you can  visual me as a wanna-be-da Vinci.
I poured green paint in a plastic cup and touched up leaves on the fence. I returned to the paint cans and mixed brown paint to refurbish the trees in the mural. Intent on my spot-by-holeproject, I walked with determination toward the mural, happy that I had been spared fire ant bites. Focused on my destination I forgot about the hole Spot the Wonder dog and made by digging in when she runs around the pool.
Yep, I stepped into it. Twisted my ankle that I had spent several thousand dollars and six-weeks in a cast having repaired years ago, and fell to the ground.  I can attest to the fact that the ground is a better landing zone than concrete, but that is about all. And the paint, ypaint-covered-headep, you guess it. I baptized the ground, my hat, head, hair, and glasses with paint, which momentarily blinded me. I tossed the paint covered items into the pool, picked myself off the ground, and limped toward the pool steps. Sheesh!
I do not recommend removing paint in a swimming pool, but this was a dire situation. Thankfully again, no one witnessed my fall.  In some respects that is sad, because a video might have garnered me $10,000 on Americans Funniest Videos, but then again, who needs that kind of fame?
I have no idea what I will do for an encore.  I hope there won’t be one.

No Shortage of Stupidity

Lest you think the Sicilian is the only one in our home that does odd/dumb things, rest assured, that is not the case. Just last week I managed to surpass my normal level of stupidity.

phone conversationI spent the greater part of an hour talking to my sister about an upcoming trip the Sicilian, his granddaughter, and I are planning to take the week of Thanksgiving.  My sister and I discussed our  hotel arrangements, places we planned to visit, and she gave me  a number of helpful suggestions on what to eat and things to do.  My sister does not have any family near her and generally spends most of the holidays by herself. Not wanting her to spend another holiday alone, I said  “Let me be the first person to invite you to our house for thanksgiving. We’d love to have you visit us.”

My sister snorted a big guffaw and said, “You won’t be home for thanksgiving you’re taking your vacation then.”

Silence, as I realized the stupidity of my offer.

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In Yankee land, where I am from, my friends and I were hardy stock. We swam comfortably in pools when the water was 80 degrees, sometimes colder if we were desperate for a swim. My reason for putting in a pool at our home was to have refreshing cool water to swim in when the Dog Weeks of summer hit. (There are no Dog days in south Louisiana, the heat stretches on for weeks or months.)

therometer just rightI was in Hog heaven in May when the pool water was 82 degrees. “Come in,” I said to the Sicilian. “It’s perfect.”

“Too cold,” he replied.

He had the same response daily until the water hit 90 degrees, then he opted to ease into the water. I suggested he take a towel and a bar of soap as the pool was like bath water. Two days later when the water hit 94, I felt scalded when I jumped into the water.

thermometer hot“The water’s too hot. I have to find a way to cool the pool before our company arrives,” I said.

Like the Baby Bear in the Goldilocks story, the Sicilian said, “It’s just right.”

“Not for me it isn’t”

Plan one: Add water with the hose.  I sprayed water into the pool for two hours, enough to send my water bill soaring. The result: still 94 degrees.

icePlan two: Add ice. I could not find a place that sold dry ice, but the local grocery sells 20 pounds bags of ice. I lugged home 200 pounds. I used some to ice a cooler of beer, and the rest I dumped into the pool. Result: no change.

Plan three:  Add more ice. I called the Sicilian who was driving home from jury duty (see post The Curse Strengths) and asked him to bring home 200 pounds of ice. An hour later he arrived home with the ice.

“What took you so long?” I asked.

“The grocery had to go to their store room and get more ice. The manager told me some woman came in and bought 200 pounds of ice this morning. Wonder who that was?” He said as he schlepped the ice to the pool.

The result: Nothing. nada, Zilch. Still 94 degrees.

So, we all steeped in the pool like tea bags for two days until thankfully we had an inch of rain and the water dropped 5 degrees. I was in hog heaven. The Sicilian not so much. He was poolside waiting for the water to warm.

 

 

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