I love yellow jackets. That bright yellow coloring. The way they sting relentlessly. The screams of pain. What I love most is how they attack in massive numbers.
It’s surprising how many encounters I’ve had with those tiny beasts. I still remember my first encounter with the tiny hordes from hell. As a young boy I discovered that there were openings in the ground that went right down to the netherworld. The holes were deceptively small, but tiny yellow demons poured out by the thousands.
We had a great neighborhood where I grew up. The kids roamed en mass. And what could be better for a group of sojourners than to have woods and fields of cow pastures surrounding us? Where large neighborhoods now reside was once forest and pasture land that could not be explored in a single day. Or a single childhood for that matter.
On a warm summer day, a group of eight to ten of us launched out for a pasture adventure. My sister and her friends joined up with me and my friends and we headed off on our journey. Knowing it would be a long day, we stocked up on water and Ritz crackers. I don’t remember much about that day except the catastrophic events that drove us to abandon the voyage and rush back home.
A grassy knoll caught our attention. It was the perfect place to stop and rest while crunching on a few crackers. I bit a Ritz and felt a pain in my leg. That seemed kind of odd, so I bit again. Sure enough, another pain hit my leg in a slightly different spot. Then I felt another pain – this time without eating a cracker. I looked down and saw several bright yellow and black bees on my pants. Then a yellow cloud engulfed us all.
Being the heroic young man I was, I took off running. I could tell by the directions the screams were traveling that my decision looked good to the rest of the gang. Not only did I flee the hordes of yellow demons, but I also kept running until I got home. In my flight, one nailed me on my left earlobe and I knew medical intervention would be necessary. The entire expedition crew poured into our house and first aid began.
Just as I began to feel safe, the worst pain of my young life struck me in the groin. And then again. Most people don’t know this, but I invented break dancing. This is where it began.
Apparently, a yellow demon was inside of my pants leg, but stinging in the wrong direction. After ten minutes of stinging without getting a satisfactory response, he decided to turn around and sting the other way. This produced the response he was looking for. I heard a buzz that sounded a lot like snickering, and then he hit me again.
Modesty lost all meaning and I stripped down in front of boys, girls, and pets. That spawn of the devil was still snickering, but a quick stomp and I showed him who was boss. And then I howled for morphine. Unfortunately, it had already been used on the other patients and I had to settle for chewed up cigarette tobacco. Rumor was that this glop of brown ooze would draw out venom from bee stings. I seriously doubt this claim. It was applied to my skin dozens of times in my childhood, but it never seemed to relieve the pain.
Winning a Battle at Torrey’s
After the unprovoked attack in the grassy knoll, I decided I didn’t much like yellow jackets. I disliked them even more than mosquitoes. Since I’m allergic to mosquitoes, that’s saying a lot.
A few years later, while visiting my grandparents for the summer, me and my friend Torrey found a gateway to the netherworld in his yard. We discovered their presence before they could launch a good attack. The two of us made a hasty retreat and came up with an attack plan. It was brilliant. It involved Dixie Cups.
My grandmother had a pack of clear plastic cups and we thought it would make a perfect dome to cover the hell-hole. The plan was to wait until we saw no activity around the hole, run over, place the cup over the hole, and put a rock on the cup.
Torrey said it was a great plan and that I should try first so he could learn how to do it. Since I survived the battle of 1972, where I was ambushed, I could certainly survive when I was doing the ambushing. I watched for the perfect opportunity and moved in like the Delta Force. My first attempt was a perfect hit. I placed the rock on the hole and stood there in victory!
It was satisfying to watch the horde buzzing in the cup, helpless to attack. I could see them, and they could see me. But now I was snickering in a way that sounded a lot like buzzing. Then I realized what I heard actually was buzzing. A yellow cloud was forming. I wasn’t sure how, but it was forming. I ran like a schizophrenic break dancer practicing karate.
Our yellow jacket response team (me and Torrey) regrouped just out of sight of the yellow cloud. When things began to die down, we went into scout mode. We discovered that there wasn’t just one hole for the demons to enter into our world. There were five holes. One had been covered, four still needed to be capped. I handed Torrey a Dixie cup. He now knew what to do. And what not to do – i.e. Don’t stand there and admire the work. Not until the full mission was complete.
Torrey took a deep breath, grabbed a rock, and rushed behind enemy lines. He was back before the yellow cloud had a chance to figure out which direction to swarm. The two of us took turns until all five demon geysers were capped. Once complete, we toured the prison compound and laughed at the yellow jackets buzzing furiously behind the cups. They were angry. We were happy.
Though we had the hordes pinned in their own territory, we knew the mission wasn’t complete. The cups couldn’t stay in place forever. The demons had to be sent back into the abyss. Then an idea struck us. Gasoline. Demons love to set people on fire, but they can’t tolerate the flames themselves.
We poured gas down each hole, and then set it on fire. The fire was unnecessary since the fumes of the gas created an almost instant death. But what was a battle ground without smoking ruins?
When the battle was through, we still had gas and matches. Everyone knows that a ten year old’s best friend is gas and matches. And then we saw his little brother’s Tonka trucks. Torrey’s house was beside my grandparents and had a steep hill at the end of the front yard. A splash of gas and a strike of the match, and we had a nice flaming car crash to enjoy. Each of his brother’s cars hit the interstate of doom, one at a time.
Unfortunately, one of the trucks turned out to be hard plastic. It wasn’t until we saw black smoke coming over the hill that we realized what had happened. A peek over the hill revealed a puddle of melted, burning plastic. There were a few hints of yellow and red, but it soon faded into black. It was a birthday present and I envisioned the joyful tune of happy birthday fading into the somber echoing of taps.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad day of work. Five demon holes plugged and burning, one smoldering puddle of plastic, a few trucks with burned paint, and I only got my hand singed once.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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