Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Indiana Jones can run faster than me. He can do that thing with the bullwhip. If he has to, he can punch somebody�s lights out.

I can�t do any of those things.

I�m fairly certain, though, that my office floor could be slithering with snakes right now, and I�d just keep on working.

He, on the other hand, would be out of here so fast ?

Did I mention that there would be no rattlers or cobras or giant boa constrictors?

I mean, I do have deadlines to meet. How do you expect me to fight off deadly snakes and type at the same time?

Just fill my office with garter snakes. I�ll be fine.

Indy, on the other hand, would be gone in a flash.

Growing up on my family�s farm, snakes were never a problem. Probably because we never ran into anything that spit venom or had a rattling tail.

All my brothers and I ever encountered were garter snakes. They were fairly easy to catch.

They never put up much of a fight.

And, actually, they got to be a bit boring after awhile.

My brothers and I never went hunting for them. We�d usually just find one sunning himself in the lawn.

We learned they were harmless from our grandmother, who, from May through August seemed to be permanently rooted between the cabbages and the green beans in a large garden she helped plant near our farmhouse.

�When you�re done with the snake, just let it go in the garden,� she would tell us. �They eat bugs.�

So much for fear and adventure. She might as well have been telling us to put a toy back on a shelf before we left the store.

�Let it go in the garden� was advice she gave us for every critter we caught on the farm. Green frogs, warted toads, and spotted salamanders were constantly being captured by my brothers and me.

Naturally, we had to show them to someone. Since she always seemed to be nearby, that someone was Grandma.

We could never rattle her. We didn�t realize at the time that she spent her childhood doing much of the same outdoor stuff we did.

There was nothing too slimy or slinky or scaly for her.

During this time, she could have at least tried to prepare us for what was waiting when we got old enough to become productive citizens on the farm and help our dad and uncle with chores.

Part of my civic duty as loyal son and nephew was to climb into the hayloft and toss down the requested volume of hay and straw bales.

This is where I had my first Indiana Jones-like experience.

I flipped on the light just below the rafters one night to find my nose inches away from a spider that, I swear, feasted on field mice for lunch.

It had a belly the size of a walnut. Its web was a miracle of engineering. I turned to flee, and ran right into what I figure was some sort of booby-trap.

The web was pasted firmly to my forehead, the spider was dangling, by a silver thread, between my crossed eyes, getting ready, I reasoned, to extract all of the contents out of my skull for its next meal.

I was out of there so fast ?

From then on, whenever I encountered something with six or more legs, I usually muttered something very Indiana Jonesesque.

Something like, �Bugs. It had to be bugs.�

Years later, I found myself in an academic adventure, viewing microscopic slides in a darkened entomology classroom at SDSU.

This is where I learned how Araneidas were, for the most part, our friends.

Very ugly friends.

The goal of this class was to teach us everything we ever wanted to know about bugs. We ended up learning things we probably really didn�t want to know.

Microscopes gave us a close- up look at the antenna and giant eyes and mandibles and other anterior parts of insects� jaws. When viewed at 20 times its actual size, a grasshopper�s face looks very similar to the alien in the appropriately named movie, Alien.

That one class didn�t make me a bug expert by any means. But I did find myself making a mental catalogue in my head of good versus evil in the insect world.

Mosquitoes, flies and cockroaches are evil. They bite. They spread disease.

Honeybees and ladybugs are good. Bees pollinate flowers and trees and provide honey. Ladybugs help farmers by eating aphids. And, unlike 99 percent of the insect kingdom, they�re kind of cute.

So a couple weekends ago, while standing on the sidelines of Howard Wood Field taking photos of the USD-Augie game, I got all warm and fuzzy when a ladybug landed on my arm.

Such a cute little thing. I didn�t even brush it off. I just kept taking pictures.

My ladybug friend crawled up my arm to the back of my neck.

That�s when I discovered this bug was no lady. It had a bite that nearly brought me to my knees.

My visitor wasn�t a ladybug. It was an Asian Lady Beetle. The beetles feast mostly on aphids that attack soybeans, but in October, when the weather warms after a period of low temperatures, they hunt for a place to spend the winter.

I have a feeling they were moving into the Howard Wood Field stadium that Saturday afternoon.

They were everywhere. There was no getting away from them.

Since cold weather had begun to kill off aphids, the beetles were hungry and were tasting anything they landed on, including me. And there were no garter snakes to be found in Howard Wood Field�s artificial turf.

Everyone on the field could do nothing more but hope they wouldn�t get bit.

Bugs. It had to be bugs.

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