Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The piece I published yesterday, The Ant & The Dishwasher, brought to mind two other pieces I've written concerning unwelcome house guests. Well, to be honest, Michelle (a new mommy, by the way, so head on over and give your congrats) reminded me of one, and I came upon the other while searching for that one. I'll be presenting them in slightly modified format from the originals, so they're re-runs but not quite. In addition, you get BOTH of them here, rather than me taking up two days of space with them, so shut up.
(To be honest, though, this will be my last post for this week, so I'm really taking up three days worth of space with them, and that's not counting the long holiday weekend, which would make it six days of space, and then I might just get even lazier and not have anything else for you after the weekend for a few days, so if you shut up before, now you can start squawking again.)
Here's a comment made on the original posting of The Ant... in 2010, which brought to mind another ant story.
First, the comment, by Eva Gallant, of Wrestling With Retirement:
I had a bout with ants, years ago. We had just moved into a house and my in-laws had come to dinner for my son's first birthday. After dinner, I opened the kitchen cupboard to get the birthday cake, and my baby-blue frosting was black! The cake was covered with little black ants - hundreds of them! I screamed and screamed, and hubby grabbed the cake and threw it out onto the front lawn. No birthday cake that day! Luckily, at 1 year old, my son had no clue what had happened. We ended up getting the exterminators in and they found a huge ant nest in behind the dishwasher. No, no qualms about killing those suckers :-)
Aside from alarming me concerning the possibilities now inherent with my voluntarily having left an ant in my own dishwasher, Eva brought the following memory to mind.
In a previous home, we had ants. No big deal, though. We would see one every so often, but never more than one at a time. Whenever I saw one, I usually just let him be on his antly way. He wasn't bothering me, so why should I bother him?
Well, one evening I had made a New England Boiled Dinner. It was mighty good, too, and mostly finished in a rather expeditious fashion by the two of us. The next day, I had the little bit of leftover ham for a mid-morning snack. All that remained was a decent-sized hunk of boiled cabbage. We then went out on some errand or another.
When we returned home, I saw that I had left the bowl of cabbage on the counter, uncovered, rather than returning it to the refrigerator. And, when I walked over to the bowl, I saw that it was FULL of ants; thousands of them. I guess they really, really, really like cabbage.
Anyway, it made disposal of them quite easy. I took the entire bowl outside and left it there. And I'm delighted to report we had no ants after that - not even a lone straggler - for months. I can only come to one of two possible conclusions:
1 - Cabbage kills ants.
2 - My New England Boiled Dinner kills ants.
In any case, if I ever again find us infested with a large and troublesome colony, I will try to remember this lesson. I will lay out a large bowl of cabbage and see what happens. Rest assured that, when I do, you'll hear about it, in detail.
Soon, with more boiled cabbage (which drawing of, by the way, I got from Uncle Stinky. No, I didn't make that up.)
P.S. It just occurred to me that perhaps the ants all got vicious gas from the cabbage and then exploded. I still don't like killing insects, but if that's what happened, I wish I had seen it.
And now, the second piece, entitled, simply enough...
(The artwork is from: http://www.timl.com/Treasure_art.htm which is well worth a visit and much more meaningful than anything I have to say.)
I don't kill bugs. I don't step on ants, swat flies, crush beetles, burn spiders, or spray wasps. At least, I try not to. Some people think this is strange.
If you kill a bug or two, here or there, I'm not going to call out some sort of PETA-style group of insect lovers to come to your home and hold a protest. I am not a Jain. I can understand where killing bugs is sometimes useful or even necessary. I have killed quite a few of them in my day. I'm not proud of it, though.
The thing is that I never kill a bug just because the bug is there. If a bug is doing something to harm me, I will act appropriately. A mosquito, for instance, may be drilling into my arm. I feel no compunction about killing that mosquito. She started it. Some folks, however, go out of their way to squash anything they see moving. An ant is walking around somewhere, not doing anyone any harm, just thinking whatever an ant thinks ("I'm an ant. There's a leaf. I'm gonna pick up that leaf and drag it home. It'll make a nice end table.") and one of these folks will actually take two or three steps to the left in order to end that ant's life.
A person just snuffs another living creature for no reason? That, my friends, is not a nice person. As soon as I see someone do something like that, I know that person is not to be completely trusted. Where does that person draw the line? At what point will he or she decide that a life is important enough to not be arbitrarily ended at his or her whim? I'm not sticking around to find out.
Some of you are no doubt thinking, "Hey, Jim, lighten up. It's just an ant." Maybe so. Maybe some creatures are less significant than others in the larger scheme of things. I'm certainly not entirely innocent of killing things for my own pleasure. I'm not a vegetarian. Maybe there is, in the long run, nothing morally wrong with stomping an anthill. I eat cows and chickens and pigs and fish, among other things. However, I don't see a chicken and automatically think about bringing a boot down on it's head. So, I'm willing to cut you some slack if you eat the bugs you kill, OK?
Where do you draw the line? Where is your line of demarcation between insignificant enough to squish and significant enough to show some respect as a living thing?
I think most people - at least, those willing to entertain such thoughts and not limited in their mental capabilities - sooner or later realize that the small size of the creature is their main rationale for killing it. A bug finds it's way into your home and is crawling across your living room floor, so *STOMP* and no more bug. What if a sparrow finds it's way into your living room? You gonna step on it? Or are you going to try to somehow get it back outside? How about a frog? Pretty messy to stomp on a frog. How about a stray cat? Got a catswatter handy? You draw the line somewhere. Where is it?
I make every effort to remove an unwanted living thing from my home and place it outside. If it's not harming me - or someone I love - I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture it and relocate it. At those moments, I like to think of myself as an extremely small game hunter. Some of them aren't easy. Centipedes (ugh) move pretty damned fast. Flies have to be snuck up on very slowly, almost as though you were a cat pouncing on a mouse. Beetles, on the other hand, offer little challenge at all. I would say that they lay there like slugs, but thankfully I've never had to remove any slugs from my living room and I hope to hell you haven't had to, either.
(I bet you don't step on slugs; way too squishy. Ooog.)
Speaking of slugs reminds me of a particularly nasty sort of person. I'm talking about the folks who not only think nothing of killing small creatures, but who delight in finding "entertaining" ways to destroy them; the sort of person who pours salt on a slug. This is the same type who enjoys pulling wings off of flies or plucking the legs off of a daddy-long-legs spider. While I would rather not see bugs killed for no reason, as I said earlier I won't shun you for it - if you have a reasonable excuse. However, I believe these people have a special spot reserved for them in Hell. There is no moral defense for making a creature suffer needlessly.
(I also suspect there is a special place in heaven for those who go out of their way to do something nice for creatures that are seemingly unlovable or gross or downright scary. I sure hope so. I've done an awful lot of things in my life that mark up heavily on the bad side of the karma scoreboard. I can use the help.)
There's not a heck of a lot else to say here, I suppose. Either you agree with me or not. I'll finish up by telling you about a gift my Mom bought me a couple of birthdays back.
My Mom knows how I feel about bugs, of course. I think she basically agrees, although she also may not be averse to destroying, say, a cockroach here or there. However, respecting my feelings about this, she bought me a very cool tool called a Bug Buddy. It is one of the most marvelous gifts I've ever received and one of the most useful.
The great thing about this tool is that you can catch the bugs easily, without harming them, and then release them at your leisure. I used to catch bugs in all sorts of improvised contraptions and the problem was that they usually took both hands to hold the bug in (an index card over the top of a glass, for instance) so I had to not only release the bug ASAP, so as to regain the use of my hands, but I also had to find some way to keep the bug in captivity using only one hand while I maneuvered the door open, and then the screen door, and so on. With the Bug Buddy, it's a one-handed operation to catch the bug and if I want to study it for a while (which I don't normally want to do, but I'm just saying) I can. When I go to bring the creepy-crawly outside, I can open the door with no worries about doing a buggy balancing act. Just a marvelous thing to have around if you are in the habit of relocating insects (or you've been so moved by my prose that you're going to start today.)
"He wouldn't even harm a fly." I could think of worse things to have as my epithet.
Soon, with less buggy stuff.