Saturday, July 12, 2003

When we rolled back into Kalamazoo at 3 AM on July 3, a small army of Crematogaster was attempting to overrun my kitchen and, I swear, there was an Isodontia in my bathroom. Give 'em five days and they move in. I can understand why ants would stroll into a kitchen, but a katydid-hunting wasp? Of course, maybe it wasn't Isodontia at all. After a while they all look alike. The wasp got put outside, but I'm giving the ants a one-two punch of (relatively low-toxicity) death: borax-laced honey syrup and barriers of dry, food-grade diatomaceous earth. After a week of guzzling the poison bait and walking through finely powdered dessicant, the workers are starting to look a bit peaked; I hate killing them, but after seeing a few of them attempt to traipse into a wall outlet, I don't think there's much choice.

Some of our hiking experiences at Devil's Lake are worth noting. The trails there are excellent; they vary widely in difficulty as well as in scenery. For the most part I enjoy the view from atop the bluffs, but there's one thing that keeps me from being a good climber, and that's a really strange vertigo that's triggered by having my back to a steep drop. We attempted one cliff trail that ran, to paraphrase Daffy Duck, approximately three tenths of a mile due up. Seriously, in this place, if you lean back, you die. Or at least you'd bounce off enough big sharp rocks that dying would occupy many of your thoughts during the experience and the ensuing airlift to the nearest orthopedic unit. Now, this is all a psychological thing; we climb staircases indoors all the time without falling backwards, and think nothing of it although a fall down any steep staircase is nobody's friend, but it takes on a different aspect when what's behind you looks like something out of Wile E. Coyote's worst nightmare. I think that in the process of crawling up the stone steps on all fours, I probably resembled an ant myself. Okay, a four-legged ant. Gimme a break. Four-leggedness didn't seem to hurt Flik's career any.

Also worth noting is that the bluffs of Devil's Lake are home to a sizeable population of turkey vultures. On some of the easier trails, I've always thought it was fun to be able to actually look down on these huge soaring birds. Rick and I also often have an imagined conversation with them as they circle the bluffs looking for freshly dead meat:

"Feeling a little dizzy?"
"No, no problem."
"You should have a couple of beers. You'd enjoy the climb more."
"No thanks."
"A little unsteady? Heat exhaustion, maybe?"
"Try making the climb in slippery shoes! It's fun!"
"Shut UP!"
"Oh, well ... we're Vinnie and Vicki, your voracious vultures, signing off for now, and reminding you all to please climb carelessly."

I'm sure some psychotherapist would have a publication fit over our tendency to imagine interactions with combative and abrasive wildlife. Then again, I've really been attacked by a red admiral butterfly once. And it's almost a reasonable fantasy, given the way we often treat wild critters. Ask our Crematogaster, if the borax hasn't killed 'em all.


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