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The Swarm

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Rosedale GardenLittle did I know what kind of day I would have when I got up that early fall Saturday morn.

After breakfast I pulled the John Deere up in the driveway and started working on the flower bed, running down the side of it pulling out grass that had overwhelmed it and throwing the grass into the loader. While working I noticed my problem child Patches had pulled one of the ears off my donkey planter and walked off with it somewhere again. She had to steal the good ear instead of the one she broke the last time. As I took the load to the compost pile, I tilled down along the dry creek getting rid of the volunteer trees and weeds along my path. Since my two compost bins where overflowing, I dumped the load on top of a compost piled up in the middle of lower forty.

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I parked back in the driveway and almost had another load when I noticed a front tire going flat. By the time I got to the back garage, the tire was completely flat. I got out my dad’s old jack but it had a leak and wouldn’t work. Now how was I going to get the tire off? I thought and climbed up on the tractor, started it, turned the loader straight down dumping my load of weeds, lifted the front up, climbed down and put a jack stand under the front axle. Next air up the compressor, attach the wrench and find a socket to fit the wheel bolts. While the compressor was pumping up, I inspected the tire to see if I could find the hole and found a piece of barbed wire sticking out of the tire.

I got the tire off and threw it in the back of the truck, and since it was a Saturday, started calling tire places to see if any were open. Most of them were just closing and there wasn’t time to get there. I found one across the river that was still open, so drove the 15 miles to the store. It took them a lot less time to fix it than my travel time. I also added a tire patch kit to my grocery list. Before I could put tire back on, Blackie had to check out the scent of the person changing the tire.

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After getting the tire back on, I loaded up my dumped weeds into the loader and went back to weeding. I noticed an entanglement of barbed wire around the tiller tines and worked a while cutting it out.

After finishing up a load, I drove back down to the compost pile and dumped it and backed up to go back to the barn. I got to thinking I needed to turn the pile and as I stabbed the loader blade into the pile, I was covered with hundreds of yellow jackets. I tried backing up as fast as the tractor would go, but they were just clinging to me and more were following me. I turned the tractor off so I could abandon it and run, but the seat belt held me tight. There was a thick layer of the yellers, and I had to dig in among them to unfasten the belt. What a time not to have work gloves on. Gloves? As I bailed off and started running, I grabbed the gloves laying in the cup holder and tried to slap off those attached, but they just kept after me. I was slapping so hard, I flung the gloves off somewhere along my travels.

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The Hooligans tried to help and also were attacked. Levi was flopping around on the ground like a catfish out water trying to get them off. As I was running and being stung and stung, I just knew I was going to be stung to death. Instead of my life flashing in front me the only thing I was thinking about was that old Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds."

I was running around the orchard trying to hide behind the fig bushes and in them, but I was still coated. I ran into the barn and closed the door behind me and pulled off my T-shirt and started shaking them off and slapping my jeans with the shirt. The ones that hadn’t lost their stingers were still after me, in slow motion it seemed. I put my shirt on and as I was running into the garage on the house with the swarm still in pursuit, grabbed the fly swatter hanging between the doors. I unlocked the door ran into the house, slammed the door.

Finally, I was safe. As I walked into the kitchen, the dive bombing started again and I swatted down the ones who got into the house. Funny, I didn’t remember grabbing the fly swatter.

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As I looked into my bathroom mirror, I’m not sure how many stings I had. My hand that unlocked my seatbelt took the worse of it was double in size. I hurt all over. I looked through my medicine cabinet for Benadryl and remembered I had recently thrown it away because it was old. Mom was in Nashville and neither of my other two neighbors was at home. I started for town and remember Peggy and George who lived nearby and called to see if they were at home. Peggy said they had some so I swung by there and took a couple right away.

I got on Facebook and asked if anyone else had any ideas, and one of my co-workers at the hospital said to also take over-the-counter Cimetidine (acid reducer) along with the Benadryl. I was considering going to the emergency room when I started feeling better.

I checked on the Hooligans, and they seemed to be OK except Levi had a fat nose. Their thick hair prevented most of the yellow jackets from stinging. Later I drove to the store and picked up the acid reflux medicine. I’m not sure how the two work together, but the combo really helps.

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YJ 1718aThe next day I drove my truck down to the compost pile to see where they were coming from and they were still angry.

They attacked my truck and then the Hooligans. Levi was flopping like a catfish again. I drove back up to the house to get them away from the nest.

I waited about a week to let them settle down and drove my truck back down to the pile. They had rebuilt the entrance and the nest was huge. I hit the nest dead center when I tried to turn the pile.


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I hated to lose good compost, but I decided to wait until the first freezing weather and burn them out.

One dry crispy morning just after the sun came up, I loaded my truck with the collection of cardboard and newspapers and checked the opening of the nest. Nothing was stirring. I came up from behind the nest and dumped one box filled with newspaper over the top of the hill in front of the next. I ran back to the truck and made sure I didn’t irritate them before stacking the rest. I lit the paper and ran back to the truck and pulled back in front to see if the nest was burning.

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After a couple of hours of burning the nightmare was over and the Hooligans and I could venture to the lower forty in peace.