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Dow: What would you be … if you weren’t what you are?

Marie Elizabeth Shade Dow
Valley Voices

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.

Marie Elizabeth Shade Dow

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.


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