Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fly Swatting is a Sport Here

One of the things we didn't know when we moved to the country was that along with the fresh clean air, the wide open spaces, and the gingham-checked atmosphere, we were gonna get flies. We didn't know they were included in the mortgage, but they were; they're in the fine print, right after the clause about dust, mud, and rattlesnakes we didn't see. Sure, there are plenty of beetles, wasps, June bugs, spiders, and ants, too, but more than anything, in the summertime, you get flies. And lots of them. It was an unwelcome revelation, let me tell you, and took some getting used to; both Dan and I grew up in the suburbs where three flies in the house was considered an invasion. Three flies. Ha. On our worst days here at the farm we're sure we have three hundred.

But they come with the territory and over the years we've learned to accept them as the price we pay for raising livestock in a place that has been raising livestock for a hundred years. We are now swatting the great-great-great-great grandchildren of the flies that the builders of this house swatted at the turn of the twentieth century. There's history for you.
And, that fresh clean air we like to brag about out here in the country contains no pollutants to hamper the healthy lifestyle that our country flies enjoy. No, our flies have it made out here on the farm. It's a regular fly Club Med, providing all the amenities for free: trees and grass and water troughs, goats and chickens and dogs and cats and cows and horses (those last two, our neighbor's) doing what comes (ahem) naturally, and scads and scads of small children holding doors open for them to fly in and taste the scintillating treats just waiting for them inside the house.

But, no worries. We have fly strips, fly traps and fly bait. And, best yet, we have good old-fashioned fly swatters and people who know how to use them. Five-year-old Gabe has gotten to be an expert, and the preteen girls are old hands at it. Along with our half-dozen, new-fangled, flimsy plastic swatters, we have an Amish-made leather one that's lasted ten years (pictured left), but, lacking any one of those, we have a couple big boys who pride themselves on being able to catch flies in their bare hands. Their Dad, the fly-swatting king of the universe, is a grand example of duty and satisfaction in the job, and arriving home on summer afternoons, heads straight for the swatters, chooses one like a surgeon selects and instrument, and gets right to work. It's a never-ending job, but the Davises are on top of it. We make the NCIS team look like amateurs.

In addition to deploying our fly assassins, we've learned to take preventive measures against stealth fly penetrations. There are saboteurs underfoot at all times; for every fly swatted, a toddler lets in three more. We have learned, therefore, to never leave food uncovered. The fact that we've accepted their inevitability does not mean that we don't take every measure possible to keep icky fly feet from tracking their icky fly germs across the lips of our cups, for instance. Some of us are practically obsessive about it. We went to a formal indoor event a few years ago where our children, to the confusion of the other guests and their mother's embarassment, automaticall covered their drinking glasses with their napkins. It's a conditioned response, and probably a good one, I guess. When we're home we carry little scraps of paper or tupperware lids with us wherever we go to protect our drinks against any incoming invaders. Sometimes we get fancy and make little lids like this one -- made with a scrap of fabric sent from Mighty Mom, crocheted to a circle cut out of a Cool Whip lid. (Did you recognize that, MM?)

Our forefathers and foremothers, the ones who swatted the original fly population out here at the farm, fought the same battles we do now, but with an elegant practicality that was lost when it became shameful to admit one had flies in one's house. They crocheted lovely, bead-weighted doilies (like the one pictured there on the left) to cover their mint juleps, they kept in their pantries elegant screened domes to cover plates and platters, and, if they were "of means" they constructed large fans over their dining tables, which were manipulated by servants to shoo flies away.

You thought these were meant to fan the brows of dining victorian aristocrat, didn't you? Ha. Not on your life. We country folks know better; they were to shoo away flies, no doubt about it.

But, enough about the nasty little pests -- on this Wordy Wednesday. I guess I ought to move on to something more edifying, or I'll lose any readers who have stuck with me this far.

And, like ze French say, Une bouche fermée n'attrape aucune mouche.*

In the following song, we substitute "Eastern Colora-a-do" for "North Ontario-io"):

* A closed mouth catches no flies.


Blessings each day said...

You just have to know that I LOVED this post and was even sad when it ended !!! You kept me smiling and chuckling the whole way through! Now I am suspicious that the original purpose of doilies was really to cover things and keep the flies away...they're not fooling THIS redhead!

Flies do terrible stuff once they land on food, too, but you probably already know that, so I won't gross you out. I have been known to chase them down all over tarnation...did that word come from...some nation that was full of tar?

Think I might be tempted to give each child their own personal fly swatter as a birthday gift! Or, at the very least teach them how to swat flies with a fly swatter in each hand.

Wonderful post, Lisa!!

blessings and hugs,


p.s. did you like yesterday's jokes?

Blessings each day said...

Ooops...forgot to say how delighted I was with your French saying, especially since I could translate it without a problem and it is 'very rusty' now for me!

GrandmaK said...

It is so true! Flies are a commodity in which no one invest, yet we all get the dividends! This was grand!!! Was laughing out loud!! :0) Cathy

Linda Higgins said...

Lisa, OH so wonderful of a post! Isn't country living the best lol! such memories! this year is the first in 6 that we have noticed more than 3 or 4 flies around the house! Not that there aren't any here...but the heat must do something to them...but...we have a lot of other critters to compensate for them! loved the cartoon too!

MightyMom said...

eh, just name em and call em pets!!

I meant to tell you, I actually sent you that fabric just for the little boy who couldn't find any flowers to match his blue turtle shirt a week or two ago! ;-)

glad to see it going to good use!

Sarah said...

Ya know, in HI they use their slippahs. Well, in some of the ABC stores they carry these fly swatters (a stick with a childs flip flop attached at the end). Funny stuff!

Aimee said...

I grew up in a more rural area than I live in now, and I was quite good at fly swatting. Boy, I could have used that Amish leather flyswatter! Those Amish don't mess around :)

Sadly, I have lost my skills now that I live in suburbia, but my hubby is still a master.

Great post!

diana said...

i can't imagine living with the multitudes of flies like you do. it would drive me crazy. i can see why you would want to cover your drinks. and i can see how the swatting of such creatures would become sport.

Gae said...

Dear Lisa,
We have flies too here in the Summer. I particularly HATE blow flies.
However I can't stant squashing them. So our children ahve decided to do this.
We have rubber band guns that are used mainly and the boys especially are great shots.
The other thing we have is a fly bounty.
If You kill a fly AND MOST IMPORTANTLY pick up the dead body and dipose of it that is worth 2 cents or 2 credits on the credit system.
The children are always sad when the revenue stops But I am not
God Bless