Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stupid Things I Have Done: Part One Of A Long Series: The Hornet Nest

Sometimes I do things that may appear stupid, but are really well thought out and carefully planned...so those don't really qualify for the STUPID label. This post is about truly stupid things I have done and will be one in a long series. Here's the first installment...

A few years ago, when my children were little and still cute and my best dog Ranger was still alive, I found a nest of hornets. Actually, they found me. Ranger and I were walking around a quiet corner of our property when ZAP! A hornet stung me on the arm...POW! Another sting followed by KA-POW! Two more stings in quick succession. All this in a matter of seconds.

It was hard to know which way to run because we were in a fairly open area and there was no sign of the source of all these angry insects. So we just ran for the pond, cartoon style, followed by a small cloud of hornets. Eventually we got away from them. This is not the stupid part.

Later in the cool of the morning, when I knew the hive would be calmer (SCIENCE!), I returned to scout for the nest. POW! Stung in the arm again, but only once and I had a chance to spot the nest site just before running for the pond again. The hornet nest was in an abandoned animal burrow, beneath an old live oak. Dozens of hornets were buzzing above the entrance and a few were beginning morning patrols of the area.

I tolerate a wide variety of unpopular critters on my place, but this nest was so large and so aggressive it had to be eliminated for the safety of my kids. The next morning, I returned with a can of Wasp and Hornet spray. You know the kind. It sprays 20 feet and kills them instantly. Very powerful stuff... I think kryptonite is one of the active ingredients. I crept to within about 15 feet of the awakening nest, held my breath, and let 'em have it. The whole can of Wasp Killer emptied onto the nest opening. Then I ran for the pond. This is not really the stupid part either.

Next day, I checked the nest, fully expecting to find a pile of dead hornets. POW! No change. As I ran for the pond I pondered my next move...

A little creative gasoline work might do it...creep in close, pour gas, toss match, run for pond. There was a problem however. In Florida, we have a saying, "You spill it, You drink it". With our porous limestone, it's easy to contaminate groundwater. I really don't like the idea of pouring gasoline into the same ground where we get our water. Plus, this burrow was right on a property line and burning down my neighbor's forest would not be very neighborly. So I nixed the gasoline idea...definitely not the stupid part.

It was about then that I had my entomological epiphany. My truck! Of course that's it! I'll roll up the windows and drive over the burrow/hornet nest and crush them like Sherman rolling through Georgia. Okay, we're alot closer to the stupid part now.

Excited about my fool proof plan, I whistled for Ranger, he hopped up in the cab with me and we set off for the hornet nest. A hundred feet from the nest, I rolled up the windows and did a quick mental check of the plan. Drive forward over the nest crushing it, back up quickly to crush it one more time, then drive away from the attacking hornets. What could go wrong? Time for action.

I drove slowly forward until I was only a few feet from the nest burrow. Already, a couple dozen hornets were crawling over the windshield...TAPPING ON IT WITH THEIR STINGERS. At this point I could have still cancelled the idea, but chose not to. We are deep in the stupid zone now...but you already knew that didn't you?

Clutching the wheel tightly, I drove forward.

As the right front tire moved over the burrow, the ground caved in, and a cloud of really ticked off hornets covered...I mean COVERED my windshield. All you could hear was buzzing and tapping as they tried to defend their colony. I hit the wipers and slammed the truck into reverse. Nothing happened. The rear tires spun, but we were stuck. Stuck with about 10,000 justifiably angry hornets. The collapsing burrow was deeper than I expected and the right tire was mired in it. I remember turning to my faithful Lab and saying, "Ranger, we're dead". His response was unprintable...that was the first time I had ever heard a dog swear.

I was really worried now, because at the time my truck was about 10 years old and like most good trucks, it had a few rusty spots and...holes. I considered my options as I dreaded the first enterprising hornet to lead the way in through some gap in my GMC.

If we ran for it, it was going to be bad...multiple stings and my big worry was Ranger. Dogs tend to stop and whirl around at whatever insect is biting or stinging them. If he did that, they would be all over him and I would not be able to help him. Plus, he was about the same age as the truck and not so spry anymore. No, that option was definitely out. Even worse, I had not told my wife of my plan,(she always tries to talk me out of stupid things) so when she came looking for me, she was going to walk unsuspectingly into a hornet's nest...literally. This processing only took a few moments, although it seemed longer with the hornet horde covering my truck.

So I began to rock the truck, slowly easing forward til the wheels began to spin, then backwards to the same point, until finally the rocking momentum lifted that wheel out of the burrow.

Once that wheel became unstuck, we flew out of there, windshield wipers flinging hornets left and right as we drove past the pond and out onto the paved road. I had to drive a couple of miles at 60 mph to get rid of the last tenacious hornets, but finally we were able to return home.

About a week later, when all the adrenaline had finally drained from my body, I carefully crept down to the nest site to see if any hornets remained. Nothing. My plan had worked even with a considerable stupid factor figured into the calculation.

It was a long time before Ranger would get back into my truck...



Next Installment: Swimming With Bait.



15 comments:

Hick said...

This is hilarious. You painted the best word picture...delightful stuff.

Can't wait for the next edition.

Oh, by the way...any pictures?

Heh!

Deb said...

That was too funny! You have a great storytelling style. Thanks for sharing that!

pablo said...

I was certain there was going to be a very long ladder involved in this somewhere. What a letdown!

swamp4me said...

The best laid plans...

Too bad you didn't get that one on tape -- could have made some money :)

Floridacracker said...

Hick,
Don't worry, there's more stupid where that came from...

Deb,
Thanks for the kindness. It really is a true story.

Pablo,
I am sure the ladder will one day figure into a "stupid" story. I haven't been on it lately. My remodeling has kept me inside a bit.

Swamp,
If I had only known it was gonna turn out that way...

kevin said...

I have been the victim of a couple of "great plans" myself. One ivolved a mobile home, a very close tree, rope and a chain saw. You can probably do the math...

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Great story-telling. I also can't wait for the next installment. I can almost see a blogger carnival emerging from this-- The Carnival of Stupid Things I Have Done. A variation on the Darwin Awards because we could write them ourselves, having survived our own stupid moments. Thanks for sharing!

roger said...

assuming that running for the pond involved actually jumping in, i found myself thinking, as you got the truck unstuck, "oh no, he didn't drive the truck into the pond did he???!!!" that part, at least, was a relief.

Floridacracker said...

RD,
Thanks.I had no idea other people did things like this. I like the Carnival idea.

DPR,
One disaster was enough that day! I try to limit those...

swamp4me said...

FC, I read this post out loud to my husband this morning. He thought it was hilarious and is now looking forward to hear what befell you when you went swimming with bait.

[He's one of those p*rk r*ngers, too. Our laundry is all green and gray! -- but we are state, not fed :)]

Floridacracker said...

Well Swamp,
I had you both as Rark Pangers for a while, but I recently suspected Dismal Swamp NWR (USFWS)...but that would be fed. Did you catch my use of the word dismal in the GBH comment? None of my business anyway, anonymity on the net is a good thing I think. Glad you liked my misadventures...the Bait one is done...just waiting for the right moment to post. Probably not as funny, but definitely stupid. Take care.

Floridacracker said...

Kevin,
Sorry I skipped responding to you. I got out my calculator and did the math....CHAINSAW+TREE+MOBILE HOME = $$$$$$$$.

kevin said...

Luckily it wasn't my mobile home and the guy that owned it was a pretty good sport. Besides, when he agreed to the idea, he assumed some of the liability;-)

G N Bassett said...

This is a truly magnificent story. I can only hope someday to be an honorary Cracker!

Floridacracker said...

Welcome GN,
I enjoyed visiting your site.