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Elmlane

Fred's Views


Talk to the Animals

Yesterday I did a terrible thing. I killed dozens of creatures I really didn't want to kill, but I felt helpless to do otherwise.

The first frost of the fall is a gentle reminder that it is time to put away the summer furniture: the chairs, table and other attributes of lazy, hazy day living. It was also time to drain out the hoses, roll them up and put them away 'til spring.

Living in the vast wasteland that is not quite suburbia but hardly countryside anymore, a region without a water or sewage system, with no natural gas, sidewalks, fire hydrants, cable or high speed telephone services, yet, only about a stone's throw away from such amenities, I have been plagued by hornets seeking to set up house keeping under my roof, behind my chairs, in my mailbox, in my son's basketball stand, and in my storage shed. It's a battle I have waged with them on and off all summer. Now, perhaps, the definitive strike has been levied. I found a large nest inside the top door of my storage shed. After dousing it with insect spray, I knocked it down and trampled it into oblivion. Then I found that the four hollow tubes that support my son's basketball net had also become a haven for these pests. So I sprayed again. Hornets stumbled around and eventually fell to the ground. Interestingly enough, they even emerged from the far end of the tube. I saw only one fly away. With my luck, it was inevitably the queen, if hornets have queens.

It bothers me when I am forced to kill any living thing, with the possible exception of mosquitoes, but it became a little easier when one that had apparently fallen on me, managed to sting me. Fortunately, I am not allergic, although I could feel my body react slightly to the venom. Still, I would like to find some alternative.

How do you tell a hornet that my barn is not a suitable place for a nest? If there were no man-made objects around, where would they build their nests?

We have set up several bird feeders. I love to have a few birds around and would happily provide food. But I would like to have to fill the feeders just once a week. Unfortunately, most of the feeders get emptied in a day or two. How do I tell the birds that if half of them would just fly south, there'd be plenty of food for the rest? And how do I tell them that pooping all over my car is not a preferred method of demonstrating their gratitude?

My mother has an apple tree in her back yard. It is overflowing with apples. She wouldn't mind in the least sharing her bounty with the birds. All she, reasonably, asks is that, once they start eating a certain apple, stay with it until its finished.

Why is it so difficult to really talk to the animals? So far, we have only one habitable planet. We must all find a way to survive together on this planet, or we will surely end up not surviving at all!

The hornets, pests that they are, provide a vital function in the food chain or the great circle of life. I don't want them eradicated, I just want them to give me a little space, and I'll do the same for them. Even the mosquitoes have an essential role to play. But why do they have to bite me! And would I be prepared to sacrifice blue berries for the sake of a few days without black flies? I'm sure the bears wouldn't, even if I would.

I'm sure there are ways to persuade hornets to nest in more appropriate places as well as things I could do to encourage more birds to dine elsewhere, but I don't know what they are, so far. So, for the moment at least, I am stuck with these problems caused, mainly, by a lack of communication.

On a positive note, it seems that some primates, perhaps chimpanzees, can be taught to communicate in sign language. That's an amazing feat. But the most amazing feat of all is that some seem to be able to teach their offspring sign language as well. Perhaps some day, I'll be able to carry on a meaningful conversation with a hornet, although I don't know how I'd be able to make out the signs he'd be making.

Of course, the real tragedy facing our world is that with all the tools at our disposal to promote communication, we still have a hard time getting our message across to another human being.

Copyright © 2001 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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