Monday, September 04, 2006

Young hunter – part 3

Young hunter - part 1
Young hunter - part 2

by Tom Gaylord

The hornets had chosen to build their paper nest on the iron bar that extended off the pole carrying the phone wires, which meant that they now dominated our back door and the yard all around it. We couldn't use the door; we couldn't go into the garden; we couldn't even mow the back lawn close to the house for fear of being attacked.

Now some people who don't know better will tell you that a hornet is the same thing as a yellowjacket, and what's the big deal about them? You get stung by yellowjackets every summer and, although it is painful for a few minutes and itchy for a few days after, unless there are a lot of stings, it's not so bad. Well, hornets are nothing like that.

Yellowjackets are among the smallest of wasps. Most are no larger than a honeybee and many are much smaller. Although they are dangerous in large numbers, they will usually let you alone if you run away from them. Hornets won't. Hornets can grow to a length of more than two inches, which makes them among the largest of wasps, and they are aggressive to the point of being vengeful. They will get after a person or animal like Jipper and chase them for long distances, stinging all the way. They fly fast and they tend to do everything in bunches, rather than individuals. And their sting is one of the most painful you will ever get. All in all, they are very much insects to be avoided.

Father talked to some men at the hardware store about our problem and they told him to forget about it. Just leave the hornets alone and they would eventually die off when the cold weather came. That meant we couldn't go in our back yard near the house all that time. No more gardening, no more using the back door, which we all did. No nothing that had to do with the back of the house.

Father was unwilling to settle for that, but he wondered what else he could do. Nobody in town wanted to mess with a hornets' nest. One man suggested blasting it with a shotgun, but father thought that was too extreme for a house so close to the center of town. He might have been able to get the sheriff to let him do it, because everyone soon knew about our problem, but I don't think he wanted to raise such a ruckus so close too all our neighbors.

He tried feeding them poisoned meat, but the hornets wouldn't touch it. He was going to try a water hose until my mother talked him out of it. She reminded him of the saying, "Madder than a wet hornet". So there we sat, prisoners in our own home, able to come and go by the formal front entrance only and having to have our wits about us when we did even that! Our horses were spooked by the pests when father brought them out to harness them to the carriage, and life was generally miserable that summer.


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