Death From Below

I have a few stories that I refer to as my “The Lord is My Shepherd Stories.”  These stories contain a common theme.  In each case, I give the Lord credit for either flat out saving my life, or helping me to get out of the situation before everything went to hell.

The first one took place on a deer lease that my father and uncles had in the Possum Kingdom area in Texas.  This particular lease was a bow hunting lease.  It was a great place for a kid to bond with the men of his family, and to learn many good life lessons, such as where food comes from, and how great that food can taste when it is cooked on an open fire in the great outdoors.

There were several perils for the average 10 year old.  Oddly, there were a couple of mountain lions on the lease.  These were part of a re-establishment program instituted by game officials. We knew something was not normal when 45 lbs of deer offal disappeared in about 30 minutes one day after a hunter had made a kill and field dressed a deer.  We questioned game wardens when they came onto the lease, and they admitted the existence of the cats, and reminded us of their protected status.  They had been relocated to the state park which backed up to our lease, and had moved onto the ‘mountain’ on our lease.  After that, the men carried pistols for protection.

Once, a large rattlesnake was killed about 30 feet from camp on the way to the two-hole outhouse.  On another occasion, a skunk waltzed into camp with a dog present.  This was not so dangerous, but sure smelled that way.  It was funny how suddenly a beloved pet became referred to as ‘that damn dog!’  I also remember eating armadillo a couple of weeks before I found out that they can carry leprosy.  Luckily, I have not lost any body parts yet.

Probably, the most likely things to cause pain to a 10 year old with a short attention span were the plethora of well placed cacti that seemed to be all over the place.  Prickly Pear cactus hurt, and those spikes can raise a nicely festered sore wherever they get you, but the worst are the little furry ones that are shaped like silos, known as a barrel cactus.  That’s not fur.  It is a bunch of evil that only the devil could dream up.  Rub a sock up against one of these, and you might as well throw it away.  You’ll never get all of those little hairy needles out.

Then there was the Skreech, but that is a story for another post.

With all of this danger lurking around every corner on the deer lease, it was surprising that I it was such a small thing that could have actually killed me.  The fateful day began with breakfast, of course, and then we got ready to go gather some wood for the fire.  It was early in the season, so it was still warm, and I started to put shorts on.  My dad, however, told me to wear pants.  I am not sure why, it had never been an issue for him before, but he did not back down even though I know I laid on some pretty good whining.

On this particular lease, there were frequent large piles of trees and stumps that had been uprooted by either the land owner, the oil company that leased the land or the Corps of Engineers.  These were prime varmint and snake habitat, but they were a great source of dead, seasoned firewood, as much as we could ever want.  We only had to drive about 200 yards from camp in order to saw up the wood, and load the truck up from a big pile of wood.

I was too young to wield a chainsaw, and was just in the way for the most part, stumbling around and watching the men do the real work.  It was while I was kicking around the edges of the woodpile that I felt a pain on the back of my neck.  Almost immediately, I felt a pain in my left arm, and then one on my right arm.  I realized that I was being stung.  It is these types of events where time seems to slow down.  I looked down and saw a little hollow stump about four inches across and three inches high between my legs.  There was a hole on the middle that went into the ground, and out of it hundreds, possibly thousands of what we later determined to be wood wasps (small yellow and black striped insects that look like a tiny hornet with an enlarged head).

I took off and ran as fast as I could all the way back to camp, receiving a couple of parting shots as I ran on my arms.

My father and uncles followed me back to camp, and that is when I realized that I would probably have been killed if I had won the argument over the pants with my father earlier in the day.  My uncles proceeded to take a couple of sticks and rake hundreds of the little wasps off of the legs of my pants and into the fire.  I guess this is what the Bible means when it says, “Honor your father and mother, and your days will be long upon the Earth.”

In the end, I was stung only five times.  My dad, who was twenty feet away, took one in the neck, and one of my uncles received a couple of stings also.  My dad tried to impart a little wisdom to be by saying, “Boy, if you had just stood still, and not ran, they would not have stung you!”  I countered this argument but reminding him that he had stood still, and still got stung even though he was twenty feet away.  “And besides that,” I added, “I think that the bees would have noticed the big thing that was standing over their nest that was not there a minute ago.”

One of the other hunters chewed tobacco (gross), and he wet some (no, not in his mouth), and put it on my stings.  It seemed take the pain and swelling away almost immediately.  I recommend it, though I am not a doctor.  To this day, I have a slight phobia associated with the flying, stinging insect, and I still do not have any regrets for running as fast as I could away from them that day.