Gardening in the moist vegetation in our back yard in early July my wife, Karen, realized she’d been bitten by a few mosquitos. When we went to bed, a few more of them had found their way into our house and proceeded to buzz our heads, attacking our exposed appendages. It was hard not to scratch the areas, but after applying a product called Fluocinonide prescribed by a doctor, the itching dissipated.
As kids, it was common for us to tan in 10 days or less. It seemed that mosquitos did not care for our overly baked skin. They went for the unexposed parts usually covered by bathing suits, although by today’s fashion, that would be hard to find. Parents asked that we be home with the door closed behind us by sunset, but there was always one, just one, 9-pound mosquito that found its way in.
Parents, toting a broom and a rolled newspaper, would turn on the bedroom lights and chase the intruders out, sometimes into other rooms, when finally, all flying skills were brought to an abrupt end. “I got ’em! I got ’em!” could be heard down the block. Even our pets suffered the wrath of the flying menace but would intently pursue them, knocking pictures, vases and the odd knickknack onto the floor. Small price to pay for an attempt at a good night’s sleep.
Nature provided the mosquito with just enough intelligence to sense the areas of the body that were untanned and crawled under the sheets to embrace the dining area. For some reason, the next day at the beach, everyone seemed to have the same rhythmic rubbing of their nether parts, second only to overall scratching.
Madison Park had its own doctor, Dr. Harris. After examining our bites -- now inflamed overly scratched areas -- he recommended “Campho-Phenique.” It cured the degree of irritation but created a burning sensation in some areas.
A common disturbance to the young bathers of our favorite beaches was the bee. Towel in hand, running to join friends on the beach one could hear, “Ouch!” The common honeybee busy gathering pollen for the hive begged to be stepped on. The youthful foot toughened by walking on hot sidewalks and rocks was no defense for the stinger. Feeling the poison, then trying to remove the stinger, was a lost cause. As long as the stinger was in the skin, it continued to inject venom. This made the symptoms worse and sometimes caused an allergic reaction. Calamine lotion to the rescue.
Mud wasps hung around mud puddles and were a prize winner for sure, but the yellow jacket really got our attention. Grown-up language had to be utilized when stung. They grab hold of the skin just to get a better grip with their stinger and then can sting repeatedly; they do not lose their stingers and do not die like honeybees do.
Fort Ord, California, where I was stationed, seemed to be plagued by yellow jackets by the end of summer. One extremely hot day during training we broke for lunch. Hungry and tired, ready for a real treat in the field, we were served Royal Anne cherries in a light syrup. Mr. Yellow Jacket and friends clung to the spoons. Fanning away with a free hand while trying to take a bite, some hung onto the underside of the spoons undetected when suddenly there was a bite inside the mouth. This triggered a funny dance and some yelling. To the dispensary, with epinephrine, antihistamines and aspirin, they went.
The fall of 1957 was to be the last year of the “Ike Jacket,” which was an all-wool standard uniform piece. It was far too hot for the 90-degree weather of Fort Ord, and parades were very painful. Part of passing a dress inspection was having the correct haircut. A few of us failed that, so we decided to shave our heads with Old Spice shave cream. The dress hat slid down and rested on our ears, so for the parade, we stuffed our hats with toilet paper in the lining. Problem solved —heat or not — we were ready for the parade.
A parade was planned for a friend of ours from the 84th Engineers who was retiring after 28 years. We marched, eyes right, presented arms and stood at parade rest. It had to be over 100 degrees on the concrete. A guy in the front row passed out, but the guys on either side gave him an elbow assist. He slid to the ground anyway breaking rank — a definite no-no.
For the rest of us wannabe bald guys, this was not the time to have used Old Spice. A bee landed just under the side of my helmet, squeezed by my temple and the sweatband and flew between my bald head and steel helmet. I could feel him crawling on my head, and he probably sensed the lack of hair -- only Old Spice and a pate. I stood there waiting, hearing Ping-Ping-Pong! All I could do was laugh nervously under my hot helmet and slippery pate! After a long while, I felt tiny legs shuffle across and out by my ear. There were many bees still flying all around us. The company commander at the podium announced, “Who the hell ordered all the damned bees?”
A few years ago, we discovered odd cob webby-looking things on or in our flour, rice and any packaged goods. Once a package was open, dozens of fluttering moths gushed out everywhere! We called different agencies to see how they got there, but there didn’t seem to be any answers for us. The solution was to either freeze what didn’t seem affected and/or throw everything out. It was really unnerving. We heard neighbors were having the same issue and that a cousin was infested as well. Eventually with a product called Aunt Norma’s Pantry Moth Spray, this particular problem was solved. We have since seen these moths at various grocery stores, and it always gives us an anxious feeling.
Sugar Ants and miscellaneous
Our last dilemma has been the sugar ants we fight valiantly with baits that tend to leak a sticky sugary substance everywhere. Raid kills them dead on the spot, but they just keep coming back. We had hornets scratching around in our walls and two hornet’s nests in our attic for which we called in the professionals. A couple of summers ago we hung fish parts on a wire over a bucket of soapy water to attract the hornets eating our dinner. It worked, but it was ugly as they over-ate and drowned.
An exterminator might be in our future, but we hesitate because of our cat child, Minka. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Eratigena (a.k.a. funnel-web spider, a.k.a. giant house spider) love our basement and seem to get a kick out of traumatizing us, but they do eat the odd insect and so are beneficial. The question to be asked is, what manner of being doesn’t love living in Madison Park?