Dow: What would you be … if you weren’t what you are?
We were once hashing around ideas in our family and the question above came up. My mother said “trapeze artist,” my stepfather, “restaurateur,” and I immediately said “entomologist.” Now many people thought I was already in the field. I have even been called in on special cases.
This late-life talent surfaced when we moved to New Mexico. I awoke one night and switched on the kitchen lights only to crash a bug party in the middle of the floor.
It is no wonder the Mexicans sing “La Cucaracha” – the insects dance around without a care in the world — at least until the bouncer arrives. This particular night I screamed, dashed for my husband’s penny loafer and bam, bam, bam — party was over.
I left but one critter wounded and still intact (though it was smashed), and not knowing what these bugs were, I wanted to have it identified. I put it in an earring box, mounted on the cotton as scientifically as possible, then this box was placed in another box, and finally these two boxes went into a rolled oats container since that was all I had handy. I returned to bed after battle and proclaimed, “I think I got them!” — to which my husband replied, “It was your supersonic scream.”
The next day I called the exterminator to show him the evidence. He had a look of wonder as I went through the escape-proof holding chambers. He took one look at the bug (which had revived by the way) and proclaimed, “water bug” and squirted something under our sink. I must confess, to that point in my life I had never seen a roach, but to this day, I believe New Mexican water bugs are really the latter.
I improved my skills since then. Having lived in the South, it is absolutely necessary.
Rule No 1: Clean, clean, clean and leave no food available. In spite of that, in other locations, these despicable characters find ways to enter: sliding doors opening to a backyard with pine trees for instance.
I changed tools (now my own Birkenstock — right there on my own foot — and you have to be fast), but I never gave up the stunning scream. It helps to have an element of surprise, and the culprits like to socialize at night.
I even attended a lecture at Purdue University addressing renowned entomologists who were researching insect control by using other insects. Using this method, some bugs would have a degustation of the others. The wife of a celebrated entomologist turned to me and ever so seriously stated, “You know, there is only one insect my husband doesn’t like — the roach — nothing eats it.” Well, I don’t blame them.
Regarding my field experience, a neighbor came searching for me when her precious new puppy got its first tick. No problem. I had a whole “tick removal” kit since we had an Old English sheepdog and these were the days prior to the chemical “dot” applied to the dog’s neck.
I put on my surgical gloves, got out my tweezers, removed the tick, whacked it with my Birkenstock and then lit a match and burned it on the cement patio. (I never forgot the revival of the water bug!) My neighbor was so impressed that she sent me a bouquet of flowers. The pay is not great, but there is something to be said for job satisfaction.
Marie Dow has been sashaying between Little Rock, Arkansas; Avon; and Missouri for many years, mainly chasing music, good snow and fine living. She recently taught at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait.