Friday, July 16, 2010

Squash Bugs and Cheap Beer

Last week while working at the trading post, I received a telephone call from my wife. "Will you please go to K&C and buy me some beer?" she asked. Unsure I had heard what I thought I had heard, I hesitated, sat down the receiver, dug the wax from my ear, put the telephone back in place and replied, "Say again!" "What are ya, daft man?" she asked laughing uncomfortably, a bit impatient and embarrassed at having to repeat herself, "I asked you nicely, to go buy me some beer." A thousand rapacious remarks, caustic comments and tart insinuations ran through my agitant brain. Since my emotional bank account with Laurie is in arrears because of such smart-alec remarks, I decided it best to behave myself. "Yes! I must be daft, because I can't for the life of me figure out why you would want me to buy you a beer." The hardest thing Laurie ingests is PEPSI retro, thus my quandary. "A six-pack, actually, I need it for squash bugs." "Squash bugs!" I snorted, "Have you been listening to Jerry Baker again, and are you sure you don't need a little panther pizz to mix-in?" There was only silence on the other end. "What brand?" I asked sheepishly, "Whichever is the cheapest," came the reply. Then click, the line went dead.

Priscilla and Lalana @ Twin Rocks.

I wondered just who the hops and barley had convinced Laurie that cheap beer would entice squash bugs into its poisonous depths. More likely, it would draw in the neighborhood wolfpack and send them into fits of midnight madness. It is, however, my intention to be a diligent husband, so I was determined to do my darnedest to fulfill Laurie's innocent request. Just then Priscilla stuck her head in my office to say she was running to the post office to buy a book of stamps and would be right back. "Oh, hey," I said casually, "do you mind stopping by the convenience store and picking up a six-pack of tall boys for me?" A cloud passed over Priscilla's brow as she stepped boldly into my office and unleashed a tirade of anti-alcohol sentiment that would have made the Brewers' Association blush. I received a brusquely delivered history lesson on how alcohol had helped cripple a proud and vibrant culture because of a people's susceptibility to such things. Priscilla would have no part in obtaining the amber brew, no part indeed! "Alrighty then," I said "I only wanted it to drown the sorrows of a few squash bugs."

"Squash bugs?" Priscilla asked indignantly, "Squash bugs are my relatives!" "Oh now that is quite enough!" I said holding up my hand and stopping Priscilla in mid-stride. "I apologize for the beer thing, I shouldn't have asked. I realize that I struck a nerve and lit a fuse of indignation, but please don't insinuate that I have insulted your ancestors." Priscilla turned on her heel and left mumbling something about "diisgis Bilaga'ana." Priscilla was referring to the Navajo belief that "The People" started out as lower life forms such as ants, dung beetles, grasshoppers and, yes, I suppose, even squash bugs. I was aware of the emergence stories and have studied their significance. As with most cultural references, however, I prefer to seek out the metaphor and not take the written word literally. The Navajo people believe those early creatures endured an upward moving struggle and through compounded layers of blind bewilderment overcame much ignorance and arrogant vice to emerge into a dawn of comprehension; an awakening of consciousness as it were. In the end, the Yei-be-chei, or Holy People, conducted a ceremony of reformation, the product of which stood before me today in a harshly, chastising manner. Maybe Priscilla was insinuating I seek out and endeavor to undertake a similar journey of enlightenment. In any case she was certainly not going to solve my beer dilemma.

When Priscilla returned from the post office, I told her and Steve that I needed to leave for a few minutes, but I would return shortly. "He's going to buy beer," Priscilla told Steve as I exited the trading post. "Good!" was Steve's only reply. When I entered the K&C Convenience Store, and saw the wide variety of brands available, I became confused and had to ask Jackie, the clerk, which was the cheapest. "Keystone" was the reply. "Good!" I said with a total lack of enthusiasm. While paying for the sixer, I asked Jackie if she thought Keystone beer was a good choice for a garden party. "Probably just make 'em sick", she replied before moving on to the next customer. "Good!" I said as Jackie and the next guy in line watched me leave.

When I returned home that evening, Laurie was already out in her nearly weedless garden picking squash bugs off her plants and pickling them in rubbing alcohol. I could see she had embalmed nearly a pint of the poor buggers thus far. As I stood by she took out a roll of Duct Tape, tore off a 3" piece and began to round-up bug eggs from the back side of the leaves. The woman certainly goes to extremes to keep her plants healthy. Laurie finally noticed me standing there eying her actions and gave me a gentle smile of recognition. I held out the cans of Keystone and said, "Join me for a cool one?" She shook her head sadly, but her sage green eyes smiled at my poor attempt at humor. The woman likes me even though she tries not to. Laurie set out small pans of sudsy, malted grain and left them under each plant to attract the unsuspecting insects. Later that night, when no one was looking, I added a bit of my own personal mordant to the mix just to spice things up. I don't spend a whole lot of time out in the garden, so I haven't noticed if the bait was effective or not. What I have noticed is Laurie's feral cat population spending a whole lot more time out there, languishing in the shade of tall corn and purring in an all together outrageous manner.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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