VIEW ON NATURE:
Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
By: S. Wendt
Nature is a wonderful thing…except when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. For me, I painfully learned that lesson at an early age. As a boy I often wandered our Annandale neighborhood and woods, jar in hand, looking for fresh berries, insects, amphibians, or reptiles. One favorite pastime was catching honey and bumble bees for safe study before release.
But sooner or later, I’d come across a menacing hornet or wasp nest that I should have left alone. Curiosity or childhood lack of judgement got the better of me, like when I placed a jar over the entrance of a very busy underground yellow jacket nest to catch “a million bees”. But at the last minute my jar tipped over to awaken an angry mob of stingers! Not wanting to lose my jar or opportunity, I put my KEDS shoe over the hole. Holy cow! That thick layer of stinging bees on my ankle and shin hurt so bad my cries made no sounds as I raced all the way home to Mom and her soothing salt bath and warning “Stay-away-from-the bees!’”
There was the time I was stung on my head by a swarm of big bald-faced hornets out of nowhere after neighbor kids struck the hornets’ paper nest with a long pole. So it made perfect sense as a vengeful 6-year old to later stick an insecticide hand pump into the nest only to learn the alarming fury of a cloud of furious hornets, and the value of Mom’s advice again (and again).
Nature almost did me in again as a young man who hiked to the precipice of a beautiful remote Virginia box canyon for Nature watching at dawn. As I stood to stretch on the steep cliff a ruffed grouse whizzed by my head so close at 30 mph it skimmed my ear and fluffed my sideburn! Had that bird’s flightpath in the dim light been a mere two inches closer, it would have clocked me like Big Ben’s clapper, with family later wondering why I’d jumped to my death.
There was the time a squirrel 100 feet overhead dropped its golf-ball sized butternut dinner directly into my eye. Although my black eye was meant to be an object lesson, the strict Catholic Mother Superior asked in front of the class, “So how did you get your black eye, Mr. Wendt?” My classmates howled when I said a squirrel did it.
Walking back to our skiff at dusk in Alaskan bear country became a hairy experience when we realized a sow bear with cubs were heading to the same narrowing point on the small island. Being the last of the three in our group further ramped up my adrenalin, but not as much as the sow’s warning woofs and her cubs’ claws clamoring up a tree! Little visibility, bear instincts, & nowhere to hide-- talk about wrong place and time until we waded out to our boat.
So let’s enjoy Nature, but enjoy at a safe distance!
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Photo from Wikipedia: A yellow jacket wasp