My grandfather on my dad’s side lived in an interesting house. I’m sure it was at least 150 years old when I was a kid. The house was a giant square box, divided into rooms and hallways. The structure stood on large granite pillars. I don’t recall how many pillars it had, but they were at strategic points under the house, leaving what would have been a crawl space open to the elements. And to the dogs, but that’s another story. No part of the house touched the ground – except the porch stairs.
As a six year old, I didn’t like sleeping in that creepy house. The guest room was large and dark. Dark except for the eyes peering down from the ceiling. An old tin roof covered the housetop, but it leaked when the rain started. On clear nights the moon would shine through the small holes in the ceiling. To my mind, they looked like little eyes peeking down at me. They waited for me to go to sleep so they could begin dining on their little visitor.
“Nanny,” I called out. We called my grandmother on my dad’s side ‘Nanny’ and my grandfather ‘Grandeddy.’ She came in the room and I told her about the lights that looked like eyes.
“I didn’t know you were a fraidy-cat,” she said.
“I’m not a fraidy-cat. I just don’t like the eyes.” I didn’t know what a fraidy-cat was, but the way she said it, it couldn’t be good.
She left for a moment and came back with a straw broom. “Get out you booger bears,” she said while sweeping them across the floor. I wasn’t sure what good this would do, since the eyes were on the ceiling. I let her know my concern, but she said she still got them.
I knew better. Sure enough, when the light went off again, the eyes were still staring down at me. I tried to sleep with one eye open. Since I wasn’t eaten, that must have worked.
Grandeddy’s house was in the middle of nowhere. He grew up sharecropping and there wasn’t a neighbor in sight. My grandparents weren’t keen on adventure, so I had to make my own fun. This was where I mastered the art of catching lizards. Each time I visited, I came home with a box of scaly friends.
I also learned a less than stellar technique for harassing wasp nests. There was an old tractor barn near the house, and wasp loved to build under the overhang where the tractor used to be parked. The sense of danger beckoned, and we had fun making them stir while trying to stay outside of their attacking range. My sister found an old plank inside the barn and came up with what she thought was a brilliant plan. Hit the nest with the board. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the nest was about the size of a dinner plate, so it was loaded with wasps.
I declined to attack the nest with the board. That seemed a wee bit risky to me. Since I wouldn’t do it, my sister said she would. This was going to be great! I’d sit on the hill at a safe distance and watch the show. I could already see it. Judie whacking the nest, a hundred wasps attacking her noggin, and I would enjoy a cruel laugh at her expense. After all, nothing is more fun than watching a sibling get spanked. Only slightly second to that is watching them get stung. The only thing missing was popcorn and soda.
Judie worked up her nerve. She then took the board and got in a starting position. In a full sprint, she held the board up long ways and lined up with the nest as she ran. To my disappointment, she didn’t stop and hit the nest, but instead allowed the board to strike the nest as she ran under it. She kept running through the tractor parking spot, and kept running through the other side, and into the yard behind the barn. By the time the board hit the nest, she was already disappearing from the view of the angry horde. But the wasps would have their vengeance. If not on the attacker, any nearby victim would do. Unfortunately, I was the only warm blooded creature within their line of sight.
I had to be at least 90 feet from the nest, but they still zoned in on me. I watched one shoot from the nest and before I could think about moving, he hit me just below my right eye. I screamed and bolted for the house. Others swarmed, but thankfully, wasps don’t give much of a chase, so I only took one shot.
I was mad. Very mad. To make matters worse, Nanny said, “You shouldn’t have been messing with a wasp nest.”
I tried to explain that I was an innocent victim. It was Judie that messed with the nest, so she should have been the victim. Nanny wasn’t moved. Pain was pulsating through my cheek and eye, but she kept saying something about learning a lesson when she should have been saying, “Poor, poor, Eddie.” She did offer some ice cream to stop my mouth from wailing, but I was in no mood for sweets. Especially since my sister was standing behind the adults, pointing at me and snickering.
The injustice of it all! It should have been me snickering. Judie, if you read this, I still want a rematch!
Eddie Snipes 2012
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