As promised in last Friday’s column, I resolved to clean up the yard of tropical storm debris and mow the grass.

I was doing this, you recall, under protest because I found out late Thursday that a creek fishing trip was out of the question due to low, low water. A creek trip is, in almost every regard, a perfect excuse to get out of anything unpleasant.

The same does not apply to many other excuses which can be called “hobbies” or “pastimes” or “sports.” You cannot, for example, get out of a cousin-in-law’s wedding to go play golf, excuse yourself from a beloved aunt’s funeral to deal a hand of poker, or skip an important social-climbing function to knit a sock.

But creek fishing somehow makes it all permissible. You tell someone you’re going to drive three, four hours with gas at $3.54 a gallon, forego the expense of a hotel because you’re actually very frugal after all, and then drive back with the chances of actually a) having enough water to float a fly and b) catching anything but a pumpkinseed perch, and folks go, “Oh, well, that just sounds terribly important if you’re going to go through that much of a fuss over it, so yes, please, your godchild will certainly forgive you for not attending his college graduation.”

Witness the story of the two fly fisherman waist-deep in a river below a bridge. A funeral procession passes over the bridge, and one of the anglers tucks his rod under his arm, removes his hat and bows his head in respect until the procession has moved out of sight.

“That was very upstanding of you,” the other fly fisherman said.

“Least I could do,” says the first. “After all, I was married to her for 40 years.”

So you see that my best attempts to justify a creek fishing suffered the rare, almost unheard of, failure to relieve me of other mundane and far less entertaining duties.

I cleaned and cut the front yard first, on Friday. I left the rest for Saturday, because there was more storm debris on the lawn.

Took me about an hour to pick it all up. Bend, grab, bundle under left arm, repeat. I was throwing the small stuff, kindling-type wood, on the stump of my maple tree that succumbed to a lightning strike and subsequent high winds. The tree was removed by a gracious chain-saw wielding young man in need of firewood, and only the ragged, splintered hollow stump remains.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my last trip to the stump to throw a couple nice-sized water oak limbs onto the pile, I felt a sudden jab of pain in my right leg, near the ankle. Figuring I had poked myself on a pointed stick, I looked down expecting blood to be gushing, but instead found a very big and angry yellow jacket just above my anklebone.

I screamed and slapped it into mush, just in time for another to nail me in my upper left forearm. I splatted that one but by then I was on the run, heading for the shop, hollering at Bogie to come with me as I fled.

Before I hit the shop, another blasted me between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, and when I got inside and slammed the door shut, the last little monster nailed me in the stomach. All the while Bogie is whirling around in delight at this new and unexpected game.

I rushed inside and mixed up some baking soda and water into a paste, Suzie’s remarkable solution to bee stings. Works like a champ, if a little slow, but it neutralizes the venom. Not quite as well on yellow jackets, but far better than enduring the complete agony.

This is the third time I have been attacked en masse since moving to this house in 1998. The first time, I was mowing the grass near the bayou when I disturbed a nest of those big black and yellow ground bees. They hit me all at once, about three times.

I threw the mower into what I thought was neutral and bailed, but it turned out to be first gear, and kept going toward the bayou. I didn’t know it at the time, because I was hauling behind to the house, and in the end, had been stung 11 times. Ground bees have stingers the size of a pencil lead, so this was no tiptoe through the tulips, friends and neighbors.

Only then did I look back over the carrion-strewn battlefield I had fled to see that the lawnmower, still in gear and moving, had mercifully not plunged into the bayou, but came to rest against a pecan tree. The bees swarmed around it, stinging fruitlessly, and I had to let it idle out of gas before they left it alone and I could go retrieve it.

The other time, again on the lawn mower, I was cutting around a big sago palm and a nest of yellow jackets came erupting out of the ground and tore me up like hellfire.

Last Saturday, three of my wounds did pretty well after a time, but the one on my hand suddenly swelled up like a clown hand. Desperate, I took two Benadryls. I am not good with Benadryl, unlike most people who are sedated by it, it hypes me up. But the swelling was painful and I couldn’t close my hand, so I took two pills and spent six or eight hours bounding and bouncing off the walls like Roger Rabbit.

Comes with living in the country, I suppose. It occurs to me that if we lived in a part of the world where wasps or hornets or whatever it is makes those big, papery round nests that hang from a tree or such, they might be easier to see and you certainly wouldn’t step on one. I would likely put a No. 6 Accardo popper fly into the middle of one, though. Back in my youth, I had determined that the nests of those nasty red wasps were magnetic. That’s because, no matter where I tried to cast my lure, it ended up in a red wasp nest. I lost many a Rapala that way.

Country life. Gotta love it.

4 comments to Stingers

  • Tobacco mixed with saliva works very well on insect stings. Been there, did that.


  • pete cooper, jr.

    You see – there’s another good reason to smoke!
    I’ve heard of the tobacco-and-spit balm before. All you need to do is make sure your cigar will last through the entire lawn-cutting exercise, and you’re set.
    ‘Course, you don’t want to stop and try to apply it while you are being set upon by others of the tribe.
    Oops, a slight political incorrectness there. Anyway, a Punch “Pita” should work just fine.
    Get Suzie to kiss ’em better.

  • blufloyd

    Last time I was stung was bumblebee, got broken arm out of deal. 42 years ago junking a long abandoned sofa. Full of bumblebees.

  • Sorry about that Roger. If I hadnt given you the bad news about the creek then you would have been up north and despite low water you wouldnt got stung. Of course the yard wouldnt have been cleaned up either.

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