Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.22.30 AMFrom the series: Life on Dog Hill

Once upon a time, I lived in Germany. During my four years there, a common weekend activity included ten kilometer walks in various towns — known to Germans as Volkswanderung or people’s walking tour. I have wonderful memories of these hikes through hillside vineyards, vast fields and pristine woods with my faithful Samoyed, Kaiser.

Although the beauty of the country always impressed me, it was the pristine woodlands that left the most lasting impression. That is why I must blame Germany on the recent fire that burned for ten days straight.

I was cleaning my woods.

Needless to say, there were lots of fallen sticks and limbs to pick up and stack. Endless vines wrapped around sadly shrinking young trees, bent with the burden of their slow and painful murder — those had to go. One million and one pinecones to pick up and throw atop the burning brush pile. Yes, everyday for ten days I labored through the woods with the fairy tale image of the clean pristine woodlands from my memories. Ten days later, there might be one spot, if you narrow your focus between tree 147 and 148 that might offer such a vision. The rest is still a mess.

Those damn wasps…

Face_of_a_Southern_Yellowjacket_Queen_(Vespula_squamosa)

The enemy: Queen Southern Yellow Jacket, courtesy of Wikipedia

Part of the problem rests with the fact that my tractor and trailer are being held hostage by a nest of angry yellow jackets that I unwillingly disturbed. This hive burrowed through a log, chewing the rotting wood into a paper-like pulp to build their underground nest where, no doubt, the queen is laying a gazillion eggs. How was I supposed to know the log was occupied?

Toby

Toby, my faithful companion and hero!

What transpired after I lifted their front door was rather calm at first since I just chucked the old log into the trailer and began canvassing for the next fallen limb to retrieve. It wasn’t until my faithful companion Toby began running back and forth in front of me snapping his teeth viscously at… on my, looks like a bee! When he ran back toward the tractor there was no mistaking hundreds of yellow-jackets leaving their burrow angrily seeking the villain.

My first thought was, “Oh, shit!” Then I told myself not to move because that would make me an obvious target like poor Toby who ran past me once more. Snap! Snap! Slowly I looked down and saw several yellow jackets on my work pants and one on my t-shirt. Their black and yellow abdomens were curled tightly as they worked their lanced, barbed stingers through the fabric. What to do? What to do?

I realized, of course, that I needed to get out of there. Using my leather glove to swat away the enemy I yelled, “Run for it, Tob!” and off we tore through the woods toward safety. Sadly, my faithful tractor (nicknamed JD) remained behind since he was unable to drive himself away from the fray. Hours later when I snuck back to investigate, the angry wasps were still lit upon his solid steel body. I think I heard him say, “Yeah, like that hurts. Try harder.” He’s so brave.

JD, my hero!

JD being held hostage against MY will…

It’s a good thing that Toby has thick fur because otherwise he would have suffered a lot of stings. As for me, only the nasty female on my t-shirt stung me. Ouch! I’m sure she is also responsible for my poison ivy.

Until I execute the yellow jackets some late evening with a powdered pesticide, JD remains hostage and my fantasy of a pristine wood, like those in Germany, only a vision in my mind.

Map image found here. Yellow jacket image found here.

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