2010.05.19 From shampoo to giant slugs

Written by David Green.


I thought about discussing some big science news this week—the mating of us with them, them being the Neanderthals.

It was startling news recently. The tribes split, came back together tens of thousands of years later, and they mated.

It seems the likely explanation for many twigs on most peoples family trees.

But I ran out of time and asked my brother, Dan, for something. He sent this shampoo thing:

I hate buying shampoo, and not just because the word is constructed of “sham” and “poo.” When you think about it, however, that’s about the worst word combination possible. I hate shopping for the stuff because all I really want is a big cheap generic bucket of hair soap. But no one sells that.

Instead there are a million weird, often phallic bottle shapes. They’ve got ingredients like fruits, vegetables and herbal “essences,” whatever that really means. I don’t want fruit salad on my head. I don’t want formulations that allegedly make my hairs bounce, shine or vibrate. Check the ingredients and they all seem to have sodium lauryl sulphate (“A molecule with a tail of 12 carbon atoms,” says Wikipedia) as the primary cleansing agent. I suspect the rest is just window dressing.

Time before last when I had to make this purchase, I found “Mane ‘n Tail” shampoo, which was good for both people and horses. I’m not kidding. I bought it immediately. They don’t waste a lot of herbs and fruits on horses. “Add a liberal amount of Mane ‘n Tail to a bucket of water…” it says on the label. It worked fine.

My most recent purchase was based on the large quantity in the bottle so I could avoid buying it again for a long time. It’s called “Aussie” and has an image of a kangaroo on the label. Though it wasn’t advertised for animal use, the idea of holding down a ‘roo and washing its pelt is more entertaining than shampooing a horse. This authentic Aussie hair soap comes from Ohio, but is imported from Canada. The actual relationship to Australia is a bit of stretch, except that both Canada and Australia give allegiance to the Queen. Which brings up the subject of the Queen’s hair. Okay. Enough said about that.

Good start, Dan, but it’s not enough to fill this space. I looked to the past and found this, from 20 years ago, via my Cousin Jan:

Bats...maybe they are a Michigan-based problem. I don’t personally know of any Oregonians engaged in bat battles. We’ve got our slugs. And in August, yellow jackets are real nasty.

Let me tell you about my recent encounter with our pest, the slug [a slimy snail without a shell]. Recently I was folding a clean load of laundry—towels, underwear and such, still warm from the dryer.

I took my laundry basket into the bathroom to fold while the kids were in the tub. I was nearly through my folding job when a slug, very much alive, revealed itself in a washcloth.

I flicked that thing down the toilet, did a rapid double flush, and experienced spine chills for a good hour afterward.

I rechecked the toilet rim three times to make sure the thing hadn’t slithered up the seat. What if another slug had hidden itself in my clean underwear? Need I go into the horrible possibilities?

Once my willies were over, I wondered if I shouldn’t have slyly deposited the slug in the tub with the kids. That would have put a lid on the usual “Bath’s over, kids!” battle.

And yellow jackets! By August, all the mothers on our block stand guard over their children–swatting, fanning, leading them in darting figure eights to escape the awful things.

This has an annual duration of six to eight weeks. By fall, Oregon children cower from anything with wings. A common housefly will send them into hysterics. The main dinner table talk concerns who got stung where on that particular day.

I was cooking hamburger one August afternoon. There was a tiny hole in the kitchen window screen. Yellow jackets love meat.

Before I knew it, the neighborhood swarm had smelled my dinner. In they came, one at a time, through that tiny hole, until about 10 of them were threatening my for the hamburger.

I closed the doors to the kitchen and engaged in a horrible battle, my rolled newspaper aimed and choice words flowing. Hearing the racket, my husband Ralph wandered in to see who had come to visit.

It took two of us to defeat them that afternoon. I don’t remember how many of use were needed the afternoon they smelled chicken baking.

I’d give your bats a try. We don’t seem to be gaining any ground with slugs and yellow jackets.

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