Hello friends, and welcome back into the world of the Bear Team. Today I’d like to talk to you about a serious matter. The following essay details, in brutal and unedited fashion, my struggle to overcome what I believe to be the defining obstacle in my life.
Despite the “Bear” nicknames that my wife has given me, I’m normally a pretty non-violent person. I’ve always been the laid back type, and due to this fact, I have few natural enemies. I tend to have something of a live and let live relationship with most living things. However, there is one creature so menacing, so sinister, so devious, that I am unable to extend any sympathy or mercy in its direction. I’m speaking, of course, of the wasp.
If ever there was an organism on Earth which deserved the nickname “evil incarnate” it is those big red wasps. You know the ones I mean; they always make their nests in a place where you can’t possibly avoid walking near or under them. Under porch roofs, in barn doorways, right above where you park your car; everywhere you look there is a regualr wasp convention in full swing.
Over the years I’ve had more than my fair share of experience with stinging insects. I’ve stumbled into yellow jacket nests, usually while mowing the lawn or doing some other type of yard work. I’ve accidentally put my hand on a fence or some other surface which was at the same time occupied by a bumble bee. In these cases, the stings I received were at least partially my fault. But when it comes to wasps, it takes no trespass on my part to draw their ultimate wrath.
For some reason, wasps hate me. I’m not sure why. I’ve never done anything to them that they didn’t have coming, though to witness their agression toward me you’d think I knocked up their sister and then skipped town. I know what you’re thinking. “Wasps are not usually aggressive,” you’ll say. “Why, I could probably pull down one of their nests with my bare hand without getting stung.” Well, go ahead. I’ll be standing approximately 112 miles away as you do it.
Apparently I inherited whatever gene ecourages wasp attacks from my dad. He was always getting stung, sometimes in the most unlikely situations. My grandfather likes to tell of the time he and my dad were working, in the dead of winter, in the attic of a house they were remodeling. As they worked at repairing damage caused by a leak in the roof, a wasp somehow roused itself from its winter slumber, crawled out of the insulation, and sacrifced its life for a chance to sting my dad on the hand.
Like the Montagues and Capulets, or the Hatfields and McCoys, this family antagonism has been passed down to the next generation. The earliest incident I can recall came when I was about five years old. I was at my grandparents’ house on a Saturday moring. I was walking across the yard and minding my own business, when without warning I suddenly felt a sharp, burning pain on my back! Before I could react, the pain suddenly doubled, then tripled in intensity.
I ripped off my shirt and hurled it to the ground while shrieking with enough urgency to bring my parents, grandparents, and several neighbors sprinting in my direction. “What happened?” asked my dad. “Waaaaaahhhhhh!” I replied. After several confusing moments, my dad ascertained that something had crawled inside my shirt and stung me repeatedly. Through my tears I watched as he went over to my discarded shirt and stomped it repeatedly. Rarely has anything given me more pleasure than watching him dump mutilated wasp parts out of my shirt.
My battle with wasps continued over the years. There was the time when they found an opening around my bedroom window and attempted to ambush me in the dark; the time when, cornerned on my parents’ back porch, I jumped over the railing and plummeted fifteen feet to the ground below in an attempt to avoid being stung; the time when, in defense of my first apartment, I sprinted across the front porch with two spray bottles of insect killer, shooting from the hip like some kind of deranged gunslinger; so many battles in an unwinnable war.
Eventually I learned how to avoid wasps, and even began to think that maybe the curse had lifted. I’d gone several years without being stung, and had even made a sort of peace with the winged spawn of satan. Then one day my dad asked me to drive his Ford Thunderbird from my grandmother’s house to his place in Nashville, Tennessee, which was about three-hundred miles away.
I arrived to pick up the car along with my wife, Dena, and my brother, Matt. The car hadn’t been driven in a long time, and given its appearance, I wondered if it would even start. But when I slipped the key into the ignition and turned it, the motor fired up without a problem. I stepped out of the car with renewed confidence. Pleased with the car’s response, I slapped my hand down on the hood. A huge colony of wasps responded by swarming out of the side mirror and enveloping me in a toxic, stinging cloud.
Not long after the infamous Thunderbird ambush I had my chance for revenge. The Bear Team had recently moved into a new house which had a storage building in the backyard. When I opened the door and looked inside there were literally thousands of wasps clinging to scores of nests. It was at this juncture that I introduced chemical warfare, in the form of a Hot Shot insect fogger, to our conflict. It was the biggest victory I’d ever scored in the war, and I still remember it fondly to this day.
I now know that my difference of opinion with wasps will be a lifelong affair. The most recent confrontation occurred when I was, I swear, sitting on the sofa reading a book. There I was, minding my own business, when a wasp suddenly appeared in the room and began bumping around against the ceiling. Then it changed course and flew right at me I picked up a fly swatter and easily disposed of my enemy with a single swing. But that wasn’t the end of the confrontation.
Later that day I entered the living room to find Dena on her knees pounding on the floor with a box of kleenex. “Hand me a shoe or something,” she said. “I need to kill this wasp!” So now the bastards were coming after my family as well. I immediately realized that the game as I understood it had changed. All bets were off in this show down.
Later that week, I returned home from an errand and asked Dena how her day had been going. “I found a wasp in the trash can,” she replied. “I killed it by squirting Dawn on it.” So this was what it had come to: a wasp hiding in the garbage, waiting to hover out of the trash like an Apache helicopter in full attack mode, ready to assault me.
I guess I’ll never be completely free of my sworn enemy. It’s Bear Team vs. Wasp Team in a grueling fight to the death. Where the next battle will take place, I don’t know. It could be anywhere. Even now, as I write these words, I can see a wasp outside the window, circling around and looking for a way inside. If it somehow succeeds, I’ll be ready. I’m armed and fully locked and loaded. Nothing like the feel of a flyswatter in your hand to make a man feel secure.
There you have it, the bane of my existence. Now, if you see me out there, ducking and darting behind trees, you’ll know that I’m not insane. Well, maybe a little. But what I’ll really be doing is attempting to avoid my enemy. As always, thanks for reading. We at the Bear Team always appreciate it. And if you happen to run across a wasp in the next few days, make sure to take the time to study this remarkably complex creature. Observe it and see all of the qualities that make it unique. And when you are done, pick up a magazine and whack it until it is nothing but insect pulp. You’ll be doing me a favor. See you next time!