We never expected the drama that the Farmer would find himself in yesterday, but our story will serve as a warning to those of you who work outside in the fall.
Years ago we planted some Scotch Pines along the eastern edge of our property, to serve as a barrier to the roadway. The trees grew very fast and we were happy with the buffer that they provided against the sound of any road traffic. Unfortunately they were attacked a couple years ago by something called Zimmerman Pine Moth.
When we noticed that one of the trees was obviously dying, we called a tree guy into to take a look. To our dismay we found that by the time you notice something is wrong, it's too late. The trees died, like dominoes they fell to the destruction. Luckily the tree man was able to save one lone tree on the end of the row.
They stood on the edge of the road, now the color of shiny copper pennies. I envisioned them being set ablaze by a lightning strike. Not only were they a blight to the eye, they were appearing quite dangerous to me. They needed to be taken down but I was not comfortable with the thought of the Farmer attacking them with a chain saw. We called the tree guy back to cut them down and grind the stumps. This turned out to be quite expensive, but it needed to be done. The removal of the trees left large holes in the ground and piles of dirt around the edges.
Yesterday, at my suggestion, the Farmer trudged out to the roadway to tackle the job. The first hole was back filled and he started on the second. I visited him at his job site and joked I should get him a Bobcat for his birthday. I walked back to the house and worked in my studio.
Thirty minutes later I hear him in the house, screaming something at the top of his lungs. Clearly there was something terribly wrong.
He had been working at the site where the second tree had been removed, loosening up the dirt at the edges and tossing int back in the hole. His foot rested on the spade and he gave it a push with his weight. He lifted the dirt, turned and it fell from the shovel into the hole. At this point he turned back to a sight that his eyes and brain could not comprehend. Rising from the ground in the spot he'd just placed his shovel, was a dark column shooting up from the soil. What could that possibly be? His mind raced and soon they were upon him..........
Thousands of them swarmed, an angry dangerous mob attacked. Down went the shovel and off in a flash went the Farmer, trying to put as much space between him and the yellow jacket mob. He stumbled and caught himself but lost his eyeglasses as he lurched across the grass. The yellow jackets were literally attaching themselves to his clothing and unbeknownst to him, they can sting more than once.
As he ran into the garage he wildly shed clothing, leaving a trail as he fled into the relative safety of the kitchen. That's when he started screaming, "Get the dogs out..... get the dogs out of here".
The poor doggies (only 6 pounds each) were in danger of being stung. Upstairs in my studio I had no idea of the drama unfolding in my kitchen. I ran down to find the Farmer hopping around in his underwear, the dogs yelping and at least thirty angry yellow jackets dive bombing all of us.
Our son grabbed the dogs and hid them in the office. We went to work spray and smashing the villains, getting stung in the process. Our son quickly shifted into his nursing student mode, checking the Farmer for sign of shock.
"Does your throat fell constricted? Is your tongue swelling?" Luckily, we were all fine, including the dogs. We were left to deal with very painful bites. The situation could have been so much worse, deadly in fact.
My mind raced to remember all the you-can-survive-anything TV shows I'd watched over the years. I can't remember what you should do in this situation. Running is the only think I can think of but had the Farmer actually fallen when he stumbled, the outcome would have been quite different.
I did some research on the web to find that it's yellow jackets that make their nests in the ground. Fall is the most dangerous time because those nests have grown to huge proportions and the insects become very aggressive.
Please be careful if you're digging in the dirt in the fall. You might just come upon more than you bargained for.