Columns

2009.09.16 It's tough farming ants

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

11:40 p.m. on a Monday night is not a good time to be a day short, but that’s how I still feel. The paper comes out a day late because of a Monday holiday and we’re instantly one day short for the next issue.

I was doing Thursday chores on Saturday and Saturday chores Monday morning, and now I’m running out of time all around.

You know what that means. It’s when I pull out the archives and start looking for something worth repeating.

Here’s an item from Sept. 1989 that I still find amusing because I can still picture the guy doing it:


A few months ago I wrote about the hardships of farming ants, including the extremely painful bite from a harvester ant.

I recently learned that my cousin-in-law Ralph in Oregon had a similar experience in his ant farming, but it was really much worse than mine.

Ralph came home from work one day to find that his children put far too many crushed Wheaties in their ant farm. He knew the little critters could die from overeating just like a goldfish might do.

Ralph first turned to a pair of chopsticks to lift the cereal out, but that didn’t work. What he needed was a really tiny vacuum. A flash of genius came to him. He stuck in a drinking straw and went to work.

As Ralph puts it, “My family watched, breaths held, at my brave and brilliant solution. Suddenly the bottom of my tongue felt like what the bottom of an ashtray must feel like when a smoker tries to jab out a cigar.

“It was like a lightning bolt, like a tablespoon full of horseradish, like a yellow jacket sting.”

He started spitting and out came one wet, excited harvester ant.

Ralph walked around with ice cubes wedged around his tongue and worried about a possible trip to the hospital if his tongue swelled to the point of obstructing his breathing.

Can you imagine explaining that to an emergency room doctor?

TWO weeks later I was writing about ants once again. This time I was defending myself due to stories circulating at the elementary school, something to do with ants in my son’s lunch box.

Let’s get this ants-in-the-lunch-box business straightened out right here in black and white.

Following the uproar in the elementary school cafeteria recently, Ben started telling everyone that I glued plastic ants inside his lunch box. Not true. I merely opened the glue for him.

Honest, it was his idea. OK, it was our idea. I walked into the kitchen a couple of weeks ago and found his lunch box swarming with ants—plastic ones. That was his idea. I told him he ought to glue them down for lunch tomorrow at school, and so it went.

It was a big hit. A couple of teacher aides took samples home to their husbands. A friend of Ben’s made 50 cents selling loose ants to other kids. A good time was had by all.

ONE week I wrote about how the police and fire radio scanner had worked its way into my life. There was a time when I hated listening to the thing, but of course that was before I owned one.

Once I had it, I became addicted like millions of others. It was like the soap opera of the radio waves, with interesting snippets of what was going on all over the area.

The value in owning a scanner is simply for entertainment. Here is some actual “traffic” as they say in scanner-land:

• A child is caught in a chair at the Carleton Inn.

• A four-year-old has climbed to the top of a pine tree and they can’t talk her down.

• A child has her hair stuck in the chain of a swing.

• A child is caught in a La-Z-Boy; no, the person called back and said it’s a lazy Susan.

My wife figures our youngest, Madelyn, has the best chance of making the airwaves due to her adventurous spirit. In fact, she almost did it a couple of weeks ago.

It would have sounded like this: A baby at 318 N. Summit has a coat hanger stuck in her mouth. Colleen managed to get Maddie off the hook without the rescue squad’s help.

I should be relieved, but it would have made great traffic.

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