“Aren’t there a lot of bugs in Arkansas?” my soon to be ex-sister-in-law asked when she found out I was leaving city life and her brother behind. I had not really thought about it, but it didn’t seem like a few bugs would be a deal breaker, considering how much I loved Arkansas and country living. The human brain is a funny thing – selective memory is one of those that will produce “HA HA” moments if you don’t cry first.
I am traveling down Interstate 57 at 2 in the morning. My vehicle, a well used diesel Excursion, is towing a trailer crammed to the rafters with the remains of my life in Chicago. My dogs, Otis and Moose, are snoring away, awaking and showing a keen interest in our surroundings only when the smell of a flattened skunk wafts into the car. If it is true that a dog’s sense of smell is so much greater than ours, this obsession with the Eau de Cologne of Skunk confuses me. They seem to actually enjoy the smell, standing at attention, quivering noses pressed to the air vents or cracked open windows, sucking in as much of the acrid odor as they can. They give me that “you don’t know what you’re missing look” just before falling back to sleep.
I am out in the middle of nowhere; no city lights nearby to reflect off of the atmosphere. Now this is what being out in the country is about. There are thousands and thousands of stars visible. Bright white light on the horizon lets me know that a service station is open. I need a break, the dogs need a walk, and I can fill the tank, so up the off ramp I go. When I get to the top of the ramp, I have a perfect view of the surrounding countryside. There is nothing but miles and miles of cornfields, not a single house as far as the eye can see.
The building is painted bright white reflecting what must be a million watts of lighting over the pumps. And what is that crunching noise?? Do you know the part in all scary movies, just before the heroine opens the door to the basement or does something equally silly, where you are screaming, “NO, don’t do it!”? In real life that doesn’t happen. You have no peanut gallery guessing your every move, no rewind button, no fast forward through the bad parts. Keep this in mind as I continue, will you? Anyway, I step out into the night, stretch and take a deep breath of fresh, moist country air … and then I immediately start coughing my head off as I suck at least 100, no make that 200, maybe more, mosquitoes into my mouth, down my throat and most probably into my lungs. Years down the road, will science discover that inhaled mosquitoes are bad for you? Will their little mosquito carcasses, crammed into my lungs, haunt me when I reach 70 or hopefully 80 years old? I realize too late that this bright, shining oasis is calling every bug within a 10, maybe even a 20-mile radius. And not just mosquitoes; June bugs (that explains that crunch noise), moths as big as my hand, and heaven knows what else is out there! OK, bats, lots and lots of bats. The ground is also littered with hundreds of toads, also called to this high class, roadside buffet of insects. Watch where you step, I think to myself.
After paying and pumping, it is the dogs’ turn for a walk. The dogs, however, cannot be persuaded to leave the car, doing the best imitations of “deaf” dog I have ever witnessed. Although my interior light is woefully pale next to the pump lights, it is still bright enough for hundreds of bugs to charge into the truck. I will be slapping and killing bugs for the next 100 miles.
So, yes, Arkansas has bugs. Mountains of bugs, rivers of bugs, oceans of bugs of every shape and color. They fly, they crawl, they creep, some are silent, most produce a cacophony of sounds. And as a city slicker looking to become a country chick, I have not met the most irritating one … yet.
Stayed tuned for part two!