It was May of 1996, on the Silverbrook Ranch near Abeline,Texas during two weeks spring works. It was with a crew I had never met, in country I had never been and I was using their wagon instead of mine. Now, that might sound like a challenge but I like an opportunity to overcome circumstances that I can’t control nor predict. But, I should have known it was going to be a long two weeks when mounted cowboys came dragging in two old knotheaded mules to harness to the wagon. Probably the most rank and stubborn team I’ve ever had to work with. Oh, and did I forget to mention that we were going to move camp every day after lunch? There sure wasn’t going to be a lot of down time, unless we counted those hours from 8:30 in the evening until 3 the next morning. I never had time to set up a fly, just tried to find shade under some old live oak, dug a fire pit and commenced to cooking up some grub.
Spring works in May in that part of Texas can be, muggy- to say the least. It just so happened at this particular time there had been a lot of rain and that made for a bumper crop of mosquitos, chiggers and ticks. I’m talking skeeters so big they could carry off a laying hen, ticks that were half the size of snapping turtles, along with fire ants and the occasional rattlesnake. What a good mixture! I felt like I had gone back in time- was this the plague they talked about in the Bible? A pestilence of great magnitude. But I took them reins and pulled back hard and remembered… this is normal Ranch cooking in the spring in my part of the world.
Nights became very short and that alarm went off way to soon when I was having to fight off a squadron of angry skeeters all night. It was too hot to set up a teepee so everybody just threw a cot down and spread out. This actually turned out to be the only upside because them skeeters couldn’t make up their minds which target looked the best. Eventually the buzzing got so bad I thought I was trying to sleep on the tarmac at DFW. Somebody call the Air Traffic Control and let’s see about closing this landing strip down- I’m getting low on blood supply!
Time and exhaustion finally took over and I was able to sleep through anything nibbling on me. I was beginning to look like a man who had a case of chicken pox on steroids. You know that bug spray called OFF? Well, I’m here to testify you can’t put enough ON to turn them OFF! I used it everywhere, even gargled with it, but to no avail. These skeeters were immune to chemical warfare. I needed a flame thrower, a suit of armour or maybe I should have slept under a washtub like a turtle hiding from a racoon.
During breakfast, under the early morning cloak of darkness, it was hard to see all the damage but by noon you could sure tell. The whole crew looked like they had hives, shingles and any other scratching disorder known to man or beast. I had tried different home remedies passed down from one wagon cook to another. For instance: there was rubbing garlic all over your body, putting ash all over your body or smoking yourself by the fire, but nothing worked. This battle had been well planned by the skeeters’ and they were on their way to victory! The only saving grace was that we just liked two more days and only one more agonizing night on the skeeters’ buffet line. In fact, I think them skeeters paid the fireflies to spell out a flashing sign: “All You Can Eat,” right over camp.
At the end of those two weeks I had never been so glad for a spring works to end. The crew was great and they told me the food was the best ever but I couldn’t even begin to grill enough steaks for them to fight the anemia and low blood pressure. We all looked like a colony of lepers when we got back to headquarters.
I loaded my stuff in my old Ford and sped out of there as fast as I could, hoping them skeeters wouldn’t follow.
Now, we have all had guests that come uninvited and sometimes even unwanted, but that spring them skeeters weren’t invited and they sure had worn out their welcome out. Ever since then, I’ve thought two-legged intruders are much easier to get rid of than winged ones- well unless them two leggers are Vampires. Either way, you’re going to lose some blood.