Monday, March 05, 2012

Dad's Bugs

There's nothing like a good Vulture Festival to perk one up. I was so blue in the previous months that I had no enthusiasm for the event, to the point where I almost forgot to order the costume. Ahhhhh. Feathers restored. All's well in the roost. Wherever it may be.

When my dad was in college at the University of Maryland (G.I. Bill, Class of 1948), he took an entomology course. No doubt he was inspired by my grandfather, who also took one (Shippensburg Normal School, 1923).

Prior to beginning the entomology course, Dad got a note from the professor. This was in the spring, for a class beginning in the fall. His assignment was to collect and mount a few insect specimens from where he lived and bring them to class the first day of school.

Well, Dad lived in the Appalachian mountains. It was sort of like letting a hungry kid loose at the candy kiosk in the mall. With very little effort, he filled two 18 X 18 boxes with the local six-legged buzzers, clickers, biters, chewers, and fliers. He had the Dobson fly in every stage of its existence, all chronologically in one corner of one box. He had a Luna moth the size of your hand and the minty-green color of a J Jill t-shirt.

The professor wanted to keep Dad's collections, but he wouldn't let her have them.

Dad was very protective of his insect collections when he was alive. Even though insects are tough and skeletal, they're also delicate if one bustles them about. However, as Dad got older, he got a little more adventurous. In his last visit to my house in Snobville, he brought both boxes and showed them to Heir's kindergarten class.

When he died, I brought the insect collections to Snobville for good.

My motto is "production for use" (which is why I don't own a firearm). Several times I have brought Dad's bugs with me to school to show my students. Mind you, I teach English. It just happens that there are several stories about insects in the English textbook.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Every time I open those insect boxes, it's as if I'm immediately transformed back into my childhood, looking at them for the first time. Since I don't open the boxes very often, the novelty has never worn off. I still go "AhhhhhhAAAHHHHHH." So do my daughters.
Well, there's no denying it. The insect collections are starting to show their age (which is in excess of 60 years, after all). The Luna moth is gone, replaced with a newer Monarch butterfly. There are a few basement crickets from Snobville that he added way after the fact for his granddaughters. Still, with the lugging to and from school, and the tendency for viewers to want to touch, legs are starting to slide across the interior, antennaes are bent or gone, some pins have become unmoored.

What am I going to do, sit the closed boxes on a shelf and say, "Don't ever touch those?" Forget it! People wear their diamond rings! Bugs on display, whether or not they can withstand the onslaught.

At the end of his life, Dad expressed regret about collecting insects. He felt bad that he had killed them (chloroform in a box or pill bottle). This, to me, shows his drift toward Druidry. He began to consider the fact that he had violated Nature for no good reason. This is why his collection will stand with no further additions. "Live and let live," is what I say -- even to that pesky yellow wasp that stung me five times after it had the bad judgment to crawl up the inside of my pants leg.

Seems like most people must take the "live and let live" philosophy these days, because insect collecting pins are themselves collectible. You can't find them anywhere. Not that I'm looking. Maybe you have a big box of them at home. If you do, hang on to them ... bugless and benign. The Dobson flies will thank you.

Taking Dad's bugs home from school now. See you soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel the "live and let live" doesn't extend to things that suck blood. Ticks. fleas.
Although I do let the spiders be, unless they are on the bed or in my clothing.
Is that too self-indulgent?