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Monday, September 21, 2009

I Did, too, Learn from the Apaches

Some time back I unglued completely after listening to Glenn Beck sob about something or another and not wanting to spend time in the county slammer, I took my wrath out on a passel of crickets that had run amok, amongst, and all over the crab grass that I call a back lawn. I figured that I killed about 4 to 4.5 million and was totally relieved of Beckangst . Being a frugal sort, I figured counting the squirt of WD40, electricity for sharpening the blades, and the IRS standard mileage rate for the miles on the 42 that I got rid of a pint of venom for about fourteen dollars, US. I did feel much better but the euphoria was short lived. A mere three nights later, I had retired and was moments from sleep when from the basement came a long, sharp chirp, then another then more and more. I rolled out of bed, headed down the hall without turning on the light, drop kicked the triple sized ottoman with my right big toe, tripped and flew into the coffee table which collapsed, really disintegrated. Fortunately, my toe hurt so much that I hardly noticed the nick out of the bridge of my nose and the nifty little slice from my left elbow. Somehow, I gained the vertical and swung open the basement door and switched on the lights. Dead silence. I hobbled down and crickets of all sizes began heading for the corners and the undersides of the work benches. The Egyptians got locusts and frogs and all sorts of plagues; I had the crickets. I had to find a way to control the damned bugs or sleep, never again.

So, I got to reading up on crickets that very night, and it turned out that the common ant was not a friend of any cricket. Furthermore, crickets and ants have the ability of several forms of communication, one of which is hollering like Michelle Bachman when in trouble and singing with glee when in intense pleasure. I figured that if a cricket had all that sort of vocabulary that one or two, in deep trouble would scream like Man Cow on the water board and a whole bunch of crickets would gallop in to the rescue. In like manner, if I could set some ants loose on their natural enemy, the cricket, the ants would probably start yodeling like Brad Pitt when he gets up close and personal with Angelina, and an entire city of ants would show up to join in on the fun, ants being much like humans in that cultural trait. So, I had a plan.

The next morning by nine fifty, I was standing at the door of Michaels, the hobby store, fairly panting to have at the supplies. As soon as the clerk opened the door, I went straight to the fly tying section and got myself a sixty-five dollar, fly tying clamp, brass and chrome, suction mounted, four year warranty, top drawer. Dropping that into my orange, plastic, basket, I sorted out the stamp collecting area and found magnifying glasses. Finding a perfect, twelve inch high, 200 power, chrome model, with weighted base, I grabbed it up and swung around and grabbed a pair of those half glasses used by watchmakers, 4 x reading power. Forty-eight thirty-seven for the two. For a mere fifteen dollars I got two pair of surgical, tweezers-clamp thingamajigs, and I was done with Michaels.

When I got home, I went directly to the basement where I set up a Craftsman vice on the workbench where I have most of my golf supplies. The vice I had but had not bolted it to the bench and when that was done, I searched around the shelves until I found an antique, steel clamp that I picked up at a yard sale in Pittsville, oh, probably fifteen years ago. This little ditty has a flat bar for inserting into the jaws of a vice and a pair of jaws of its own operated by a wing nut-looking device. I clamped it and the fly-tying rig next to each other in the vice, pretty near parallel. Then up the steps and out to the tool-shed I went and found a spool of fine gage, copper wire. On the way back to the basement, I grabbed up a table lamp with a 75 watt bulb to put beside the vice so that the light would be exemplary. All my tools in place, I was ready to put my plan into action.

I began to crawl around the basement floor looking for a fairly large cricket, figuring the larger the cricket the louder the cries for help. It wasn't long before I corralled one up against the water pump and snatched him up (it might have been a she; I have not read up on how to sex crickets) and took him to the antique clamp. With reasonable care, I clamped him in place, so that his legs were free but he was snugged in enough not to wiggle free. Now, I got to admit I squished about half a dozen goodly sized crickets before getting the technique down, but what the heck, they ain’t singing anymore. With the fella clamped in, I put on the glasses and moved the magnifying glass into focus. (I got to admit, for as much as I dislike the creatures, they are pretty damned amazing under great magnification.) Then I swung the fly-tying rig in close enough to capture a leg. Once the leg was secure, I got the wire and tweezers and put a double half hitch onto the fore-leg. After snaring the first leg, the job was easy because I could manipulate the arthropod into place by holding onto and twirling the wire. When I got four legs wired up, I dropped him into a Mason jar and found three more of the rascals and wired them up and plopped them in the jar.

By now it was just about dusk, perfect for my strategy. Up out of the basement, I went with the crickets, and before going out of the kitchen, I grabbed a box of those fancy, cellophane-ended tooth. Just about ten feet from the back steps is a pile of crush and run left over from leveling the space between the home and the tool shed. That pile is inhabited by a colossal farm of tiny red ants, Tetramorium caespitum, or pavement ants. They are fairly docile creatures until their home is disturbed; then, they will sally forth and pestercate whatever is about the disruption of their home. I walked over real quiet like to the ant hill. Then I knelt and gently inserted four tooth picks in a square, in four different spots on the hill, four squares of four toothpicks. Then, I wired the four crickets to each one of the sets of tooth picks and went to the shed and came out with a beat up, old sand wedge. I sat down about a dozen feet from the hill and waited for the action.

Sure enough, in a few moments, a couple of ants came out to explore. When they saw their bitter enemy thus trussed out, they began yodeling like mad (mind you I could not hear the yodels but some communication had to be going on), and in a matter of a half minute, each crickets was being gnawed on by a good couple hundred ants with more coming, like WalMart shoppers trying to get to an Xbox. The crickets must have started their SOSes for an entire Chinese army of the lepidogrylli hopped out of the woods and fields and skipped directly for the mound of stone. As soon as the drive filled with the varmints, I hopped out myself and started stomping and flailing about with the wedge. I hopped and wedged until it was too dark to see. Crickets were so thick on the bottom of my Nike running shoe that I was a full six foot one, up from five ten. I can’t say how many I got with the wedge; they were pretty well knocked all about kingdom come. I know I got at least a score of thousands, not counting the four I staked out which the ants had rendered into a few flakes of thorax when I went out the next morning to do a walk over. The best part, besides an improved wedge-game, was that all the crickets in the basement must have rushed up to the aid of their brothers because when I went down to take a look, not one was about.

Years ago, I had a cricket-eating dog named Niza. If a cricket dared enter the house, that dog would snap it up in no time. In the early fall, she would often go around the house gobbling up as many as a dozen. Then, she would puke them up in the kitchen. Cleaning it up was not nearly as bad as lying awake listening to the incessant chirping. I would get another Niza except her breed costs upwards of fourteen hundred dollars. I can buy a bunch of wire and toothpicks for much less than that.

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