Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we recall our childhood in Appalachia!
The occasion for this stroll down memory lane is a merry adventure in my tiny New Jersey yard last night. My two rescue cats, Alpha and Beta, discovered a fair-sized praying mantis and didn't quite know how to handle it.
I took Alpha inside. She's old and doesn't need to have a big insect hanging from her ear.
Beta stalked the mantis cautiously. Wisely, the mantis hid in the grass, where it blended right in. (I guess I should mention that my daughters cued me to this drama. They were both watching it.)
Beta kept prowling the yard for more than 10 minutes, looking for that bug. Finally the mantis got bored and started creeping toward the garden. Beta noticed right away and gave chase.
All you tree-huggers out there know about praying mantises, right? I'll bet they pray to some badass bored god like Mithras. Because that mantis sprang up on its hind legs, splayed out its wings, prepared its pincers for action, and charged Beta Cat. Wisely, she backed off. Then I grabbed her and shoved her inside.
I want to apologize to the Green Man for uprooting a tallish plant and using it as a vehicle to return the mantis to the faerie part of my garden. One can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many praying mantises in the garden.
Anyway, this fascinating natural drama recalled to my mind the long summer days before video games and 24 hour cartoons, when I mostly played with insects. Granddad would give me a big jar, and I could catch bees in it, or big grasshoppers, or anything that crawled in my path. (Never could collar a hummingbird moth, sure tried. Didn't go for butterflies, too fragile for a jar.)
This next won't win me friends or influence people. But I liked to get a huge, monstrous praying mantis in my jar and then feed it a grasshopper. Okay, so it wasn't nice, but it also wasn't Left Behind: Kill All Pagans. My granddad was always waging war on grasshoppers and other pests of the truly organic garden, so he encouraged my childhood antics.
My cousins and I used to catch box turtles and paint our initials on their shells with fingernail polish. Then we would have turtle races. Yeah, turtle races are slow affairs, but you've got to remember we had a lot of daylight to kill.
Once a turtle got ticked at me and bit me. After that I generally avoided the turtle races.
About 6 years after the turtle race, I was hiking one time and found a turtle in a spring that still had an initial in pink on its back. Is that possible, or am I unclear on how many years passed? I know it surprised me.
When my mama died and went to sleep with the Confederate Dead, we had a visitation at the funeral home. An old friend of mine stopped by and said, "Do you remember how we used to catch bees?"
Yep, I sure do.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
AREA 14, STAR 14
Tomorrow we look at the hard science behind that Turtle Upon Whose Shell the World Rests.