Monday, January 26, 2015

"Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore, and that's what parents were created for."  ~ Ogden Nash

Dogs are to love and be loved. Horses are to be ridden and admired. Cats are to be snuggled and cuddled. But, when you're a little kid, ants are to be studied!  Yes ANTS! Have you ever really watched them? If you haven't, you've missed out on a civilization that is probably the most organized in all of nature… well, maybe except for the bee kingdom… but that'd be another story…

I sat on the edge of the step that led to our front door. An army of little brown ants scurried in impossibly straight lines toward my bare feet, and around my feet, and, once in a while, even over my little toe. They didn't seem to know that there was any difference between my toe and the cement walkway. It seemed to be the rigourous, but invisible, straight lines that drove them forward to some essential destination. Wonder where it was…  And that place where the crew must have to rest up for their next single-minded rush forward… where was that?

"Terry!  What are you doing?" Mom called.

"Nuthin… I'm just sittin' on the step." But that wasn't true! I was studying. I just didn't know it.

I looked even closer. Some of the ants were carrying things on their heads. They looked like tiny pieces of dirt. Was it for their dinner tonight? Or were they building an underground city with rooms for each family? Who cared! It was more fun to interrupt their wild running. I grabbed leaves and tiny clods of dirt and a twig or two, and put obstructions in their way to foil their invisible roads. Each obstacle seemed to infuriate them and cause them to dance in crazy circles and madly wave their feelers in the air. It made me giggle to see it.

So I giggled. No response! I giggled again… nothing! If I'd have giggled at Susan, the girl who sat in front of me in school, she would have found a way to kick me without the teacher ever seeing a thing. But these ants were angry just because they had to go around a speck of dirt! They were even meaner than Susan was. Stupid ants!

Then it hit me. These ants didn't even know I was there! They didn't know that a human being, about a million times bigger than they were, was sitting here watching them, and pestering them, and causing them to fly into temper tantrums. I was so much bigger than they were that I didn't exist! 

I killed bunches more, just because… just because I could! That instant death would cause the ants nearest the bodies to dance crazily and flutter their feelers at right angles in every direction, and then they would be back on the straight and narrow again, going to that invisible country that no one my size could ever enter.

It was the first time in my very young life that I thought about God. I went to Sunday school every Sunday morning while my Mom and Dad were in church. It was fun because the teacher told us stories about people who lived a long, long, long time ago, and then she'd let us color. Now, coloring on big pieces of paper was the biggest reason I loved Sunday school. That, and the stories and the singing, too. It was all fun!

But for the first time in my life, for just about 5 minutes, I thought about God. He was sooooo much bigger than we were. And we ran around like crazy and we did dances. I even hit my little brother once in awhile because I was bigger than he was. It was fun, too! Well, sometimes, Jackie would run around and be very angry, and I bet if he had feelers on top of his head, they would have fluttered all over the place, too. 

I looked up at the sky. That's where He lived. The Sunday school teacher told us that every single Sunday. And every single Sunday I worried that when I became an angel, I might fall off my cloud. You see, besides ants, I liked to look at the sky, too. Clouds are fluffy and white nearly every day in Southern California, and I worried about that. I especially worried that my little brother would definitely fall between the clouds up there. You should have seen him when he and his friends were playing cowboys! Bet Jackie couldn't jump over the space between the clouds up there!

Time passed. My Dad was recalled into the Air Force to be an instructor, so we moved to San Antonio, Texas. It's hot there. And they have lots and lots more dirt than we ever did in Southern California. I still loved to go bare-footed, and I hoped that in Texas there would be a little bit of grass to tickle my toes!

That first day in our new house in San Antonio, Texas, I ran outside into the backyard. I was barefoot, of course, and, boy, that dirt was cooked hot by the Texas sun! And there were ants there, too, only these ants were lots prettier than those old California ants were. They were bright reddish-brown, and they ran even faster than their laid-back California cousins ever did.

I found a huge gathering of these red ants by the back fence. They were running around some rocky boulders in the dirt, so I sat down right in the middle of them and proceeded to squish some of them to see what kind of a dance the rest would do.

But the Texas ants knew something that those California ants never understood. They SAW me! And they didn't like what they saw. All at once they ganged up on me and bit me everywhere there was skin to chew on. I was being stung by a thousand blazing fires in a thousand tender places all at once! 

Mom heard my screams, of course, and Dad was outside like a shot, carrying me into our new house. In fact, Mom heard my screams and my crying for about 3 more days, until their poison finally wore itself out.

Those Texas beasts are called "Fire Ants," my Dad found out at the base the next day. You don't ever want to mess with anything that has the word "FIRE" in its name. I'm just sayin'……. 

But between you and me, I still believe that science will finally discover a secret ant "hot-line" that alerts other brothers to maim the killers of their ant empires.

And, please, don't anyone tell those "Fire Ants" how to get to Southern California… PULEEZ… I'M BEGGING YA!   

So I squashed 'em. I pressed my finger on one, and, instantly, he was flattened… just like that… gone!


  1. I remember us doing ant watching on my front porch steps on 58th St. as we were discussing the world's issues and young married and me. Sometimes we just never grow up!

  2. Sheila!!! I remember those days, too… even though now, we're old married ladies. And yes, yes, yes, I KNOW I'm older than you! :}