A few weeks ago the great grandkids were playing in the yard at our place. The noise of all the laughing and hollering of play suddenly changed to the crying and squalling of pain and fright. Naturally the response from the adults in attendance at this gathering was one of concern but no real fear. Probably one of the kids had taken a fall and hurt themselves or maybe they had decided to stop playing and fight for a while.
But this proved not to be the case at all. It seems that the kids had come in contact with a yellow jacket nest and the consequences were as can be expected. They were being attacked by the yellow jackets. As one who, over the years, has had more than several encounters with yellow jackets, I know the results of these encounters are, to say the least, very painful. These little folks did what anyone in trouble would do. They went toward help and doing so they brought their torment with them. The ensuing stampede to the porch brought screaming, crying kids along with a bunch of pissed off yellow jackets and this in turn caused a very violent and vocal response from the adults.
With arms swinging and chairs turning over and cussing such as should not be heard in mixed company the fight was on. After a few minutes of battle it seemed that the yellow jackets had been dispatched, but the squalling had not diminished one decibel. Unbeknownst to the women of the family, who had taken on the task of bringing order to all this chaos, the yellow jackets had gotten up the legs of the shorts the kids were wearing. This caused a complete undressing of the luckless participants of this little drama and the application of salves and lotions as well a good amount of wet Copenhagen snuff. There seemed to be no lasting ill effects and so after affirmation from the grown-ups that it would all be better in a little while and after having one of the frozen treats that Grandma keeps on hand, the playing resumed.
The next logical step was the destruction of the yellow jacket nest after it was located. What followed was a generous application of chemical seat. With this done it was once again safe in that part of the yard for the kids.
Several days had passed with no sign of yellow jackets in this flower bed so I decided to give Betty a helping hand to clean it. There were stems left of something that had grown very tall. (Other than roses and azalea, I can identify few flowers.) I began to pull these long, tall things up at the spot where the yellow jacket nest had been located and destroyed. Being careful and watchful and not seeing any yellow jackets I picked up the pace determined to finish this little task and move on to something else. This proved to be the wrong move.
The yellow jackets had relocated or there were two nests and we had only done away with one. Anyone who has ever had a run in with yellow jackets will surely agree with this next statement. The next few seconds were hell. Those little things came up all around me and it was literally impossible to escape without suffering from numerous stings. I broke for the house kicking off shoes and trying to pull a sweat soaked tee shirt over my head and having little luck. I finally made it to the house and found I had carried some of them with me into the house.
After the swelling in my left foot had diminished to the point of being able to walk somewhat normal I summoned the courage to once again attack the yellow jacket problem. With gasoline and chemical spray of some kind Betty and I located and hopefully destroyed the yellow jacket nest.
But while standing there congratulating ourselves for a job well done a big old, fat toad frog hopped out from under the plants at the edge of the flower bed. The toad was sitting under the plants in the shade doing whatever toads do, minding his own business, when he was doused with a mixture that meant a death sentence. I picked the toad up and carried him over to the hose and washed him off and put him on the ground in the shade, hoping that I had done enough to save his life. No such luck in just minutes the toad died.
Big deal, just how important is one big old fat toad frog? Things happen. But I guess what this incident made me realize and not for the first time, is just how many living things we kill every day in the attempt to rid ourselves of some pest.
The military planners and strategy folks call this collateral damage. But is it possible to survive with this mind set? How much of this can we do without doing irreplaceable damage to the unseen citizens of our world?
It’s something I will think about the next time I am figuring out how to deal with a problem in my world.
Thanks, Don, for reminding us to take the holistic view.
Don a great story and I have also been in the center of a yellow jacket swarm. I’ve seen over 33 years of working for NRCS and growing up on a ranch that we do better when working with creation instead of against it.
I’m also sensitive as a retired lieutenant colonel that you might have a different take if one of your family died from the stings and many of us know someone who is that allergic. After the tragic murder of 141 school children in Pakistan yesterday it it clear to me that rattlesnakes and extremists must be dealt with whenever encountered and sadly some who are cheering them on, looking the other way or unwilling to take a stand may become collateral damage.
Best wishes and thank you again for the story.
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