For want of a fly swatter
Autumn is upon us again, and with it comes the house fly. Enjoy this column originally published in the Record on September 27, 1988.
It's hard to believe that Autumn is upon us, already. The signs are unmistakable, though. The apple trees, with their burden of fruit, no longer have to be looked for in the woods; with their red and yellow and speckled crop, they stand out clearly. Some of maple trees around the country look as though they had low-grade fevers. Their green has given way to a flush of dull red. Seems to come earlier every year.
Other signs appear as well now. Deer season will soon be upon us. We get the usual compliment of cars cruising past slowly, to see if there are any deer in the lower meadow. It's not the valleys of life I mind so much as the dips – like the dipstick who shot a young deer in our field twenty minutes or so before hunting season started last year, walked down to look at it, decided he wanted a bigger deer, and just left.
The cows show an interest in hay now, when they come in, but they don't spend a lot of their time hanging around the barn door waiting to get in and get at it. There is still good grass outside that they haven't finished and more grass that they can be let into a little later. When milking is done and it is time to let them out again, there is a bit of a hesitation, after the stanchions are opened; they think another wisp of hay might not be a bad thing, but then they remember unfinished business outside and begin the ponderous process of getting out of their stalls and the barn.
Flies are getting stupider, this time of year. I think the cold nights addle whatever they have that passes for brains. Not only do they want to come inside and stay inside, they also seem to want to be with you. If you sit down for a moment you are bound to have two or three flies who want to sit down with you. They buzz around your head and peer in through your glasses, they land on your hand again and again, or they walk conspicuously down the page you are trying to read. A wave of the hand puts them all in orbit again, but just as you begin to read, there they are again.
Getting up to get the fly-swatter is often a fruitless exercise. Flies know what a fly-swatter is, don't tell me they don't. Returning to your chair you pick the paper up in one hand and hold the swatter in the other. Now you see flies flying about in the middle distance, making feints as if they were going to land on you, and you raise the swatter to the ready, but they remain out of reach. In fact, they don't seem to be the same flies at all. These ones like to sit on windows and screens.
By this time, of course, you have completely lost the drift of what it was that you were reading. With murder in your eye, you put down the paper and sally forth to battle. Now, of course, there is not a fly to be seen anywhere. You roam through the downstairs, looking for some victim, and all you can find is the big buzz that has been in the house for several days. It would be delightful to swat this particular fly. He is slow, and ponderous, and sounds like an over-laden DC-3, and he always shows up in the bedroom before we put out the light at night.
Now the hunt is on in earnest, but there is a problem. How is it that something that big, something that makes all that noise, can't be seen? You can track it by its buzz – sort of. But aside from fleeting glimpses, you can't see it. Hitting out wildly in the general direction only serves to knock from the desk a one litre Vanilla Fudge ice cream container filled, not with ice cream, but with an amazingly extensive collection of pencils, pens, hi-lighters, rulers and pieces of rulers, paper clips (which the French – romantics that they are – wonderfully call “trombones”), erasers, thumbtacks, and even a magnet that you thought you had lost long ago.
By the time you get all that mess picked up – oops, there was a thumbtack you missed, now well attached to the sole of your shoe, the buzz has buzzed off into another room and you will not hear or see him again until this evening, just as you are settling down for the night. Wait. That's a fly sitting on that window. Ah, got the bounder. Oops again. That window was just washed. Oh dear, I wonder where we keep the window-cleaning supplies?
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.