This is a tale of long ago that seems appropriate to relate at this time of year. Actually, I don't like to talk about it at all, but my dear daughter has been bugging me (pun intended) to write the incident down for posterity . . . and probably so she can garner some sympathy and illustrate what a hard childhood she had to endure. (Ahem.)
Up in our neck of the woods we have a particularly vicious biting insect called the black fly. Picture a regular, little ol' gnat about twice the size of normal, pitch black and very sturdy looking. On steroids.
These terrible creatures travel in marauding bands (well, it seems like that anyway) and can drive both humans and animals stark raving bonkers by flying directly into eyes, ears and up noses. But the worst thing about them is their bite. If you could look at one through a microscope, you would see they have mandibles with serrated teeth. They don't bite like a mosquito by sticking a tubular proboscis into your skin and sucking out blood but rather they actually cut or saw a hole in your skin and drink the blood. (Feeling creeped out yet?) This results in a painful sting (yup, sorta like you've been cut) which often produces blood running in a little rivulet down your skin.
Okay, on with the story.
We moved up here to Minnesota from Illinois the year our daughter was two years old. The following early summer, we were eager to get our fruit tree orchard started. Our order of trees arrived during the week so the next Saturday found us outside digging holes and planting trees.
It was in the middle of bug season so Papa Pea, a not quite three year old Chicken Mama and I were dressed to cover as much skin as possible including wearing head nets.
The future orchard spot was in an open field a ways from the house so we had to take Chicken Mama with us to do the planting. She was too young to stay in the house alone. I had taken special precaution to protect her from the black flies by dressing her in slacks tucked into her little rubber boots, a zipped up hooded sweatshirt tucked into her pants, gloves and a wide brimmed straw hat over the sweatshirt hood with head net on top of that and tied securely around her waist.
The black flies were thick but we had a job that needed to be done and our clothing and head nets were doing a good job of protecting us.
We hadn't been at work long before Chicken Mama started whining. I had brought a blanket for her to sit on and toys for her to play with so I didn't know why she seemed cranky. This was a child who was used to entertaining herself and she was very good-natured and rarely whiny. I talked to her but couldn't figure out why she was unhappy. She wanted to go back in the house. I explained why we all had to be outside.
I don't know how long it was before I finally took her inside but I know she was a very, very sad little girl by the time I did. This wasn't usual behavior for her and even though Papa Pea and I were trying so hard to get those darn trees planted, I had to leave him to the chore and take my little bambino indoors to find out what was the matter with her.
Once we got in the house I started to undress her by taking off her head net. The first thing I saw were trickles of blood running down her forehead. Then it got worse.
Somehow, some way a bunch of black flies had gotten up inside the head net, inside the hood of her sweatshirt and into her hair. Her whole little blonde head was nearly covered with blood and angry, red welts with lines of blood oozing down her little neck.
Do ya think I felt guilty? Do ya think I felt horrible? Do ya think I felt like Bad Mother of the Year? I started crying realizing how much agony she had been in for so long while I admonished her for being cranky and uncooperative while mom and pop worked at getting the orchard planted.
Well, I'm glad to say that Chicken Mama survived without seeming to suffer any serious harm. It took me a LOT longer to get over the incident than it did her, I know that for certain.
Just getting this story set down on paper is making my scalp itch like crazy. It's something I wish had never happened but for many years has proved to be good fodder for Chicken Mama to get attention and illustrate how difficult a childhood she had while growing up in the rough and tough wilderness of northeastern Minnesota. (Big grin!)
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