On July 3, 1981 the crew of the Valiant sailed out of Burnham Park Harbor (Chicago) with a destination of Michigan City, Indiana.
We had slept on board the night before so that we could get an early morning start. The Captain had set the departure time at 7am (give or take 15 seconds – the Captain has always believed in punctuality). We didn’t want to be standing on the dock at 7:02 waving farewell to the crew as they headed toward the mouth of the harbor and onto Lake Michigan (as I’d seen this happen before).
At first I didn’t understand why we were going to Michigan City for the Fourth of July; Chicago had a far better fireworks display. I had found, in the past, that it was unwise to question the Captain about matters such as this. Later that day I found out from my cousin (The Admiral) that the Captain (who would turn 40 years old on the Fourth) feared a surprise party and wanted to get out of town.
The Captain plotted (manually with a chart) and then set the course for Michigan City. There was a moderate breeze from the Northwest and it was predicted that we would get there in about 7 hours.
About half way there (mid-lake) the wind died and we were just moving with the waves. It was like being in the doldrums of the Sargasso Sea, but without the seaweed. The Captain said that we would wait a while before turning on the engines and that it was a good time to have lunch. As we ate, a swarm of flies descended on us. This was the middle of the lake, where did they come from? It seems that they had been on a board that was floating in the water near the boat.
The flies were not going for our food, they were going for us. We only had two fly swatters and by the time you would zap one fly; two more would take its place. The Captain turned on the engine (this was a drastic measure, as the Captain did not like to waste fuel)! These flies were biting us like the abominable Wisconsin Deer Fly (People from Chicago call them Kamikaze Flies; they have a 5 inch wingspan and dive right at you).
In a short time we had left the Sargasso Sea, the wind picked up and we were able to kill or get most of the flies off of the boat. It was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip to Michigan City and a good time was had by all. End of story.
But, it’s not the end of this Blog.
During my life I have been attacked by about every flying insect that is known to mankind (I believe the tsetse fly is the exception). I think that these insects innately know that if they come near me, I will attempt to kill them. So like the Kamikaze Deer Flies of Wisconsin, they will tempt the fates by attacking me first.
Although it has been a rainy spring and summer, I have yet to see a mosquito. The avian population and the small reptiles that inhabit our yard must be performing their primary function; insect elimination. I can put up with the squawking birds, croaking frogs and chirping lizards as long as they do their jobs by ridding me of the flying insect population.
Earlier this summer we were besieged by sand flies; these are sneaky little (about a sixteenth of an inch long) blood suckers that you do not see landing on you and biting you. They will leave a welt the size of a mosquito bite that itches like hell.
Next came the invasion of the Gnats. I don’t believe that they bite, but they do have a tendency to fly up your nose and into your eyes (and mouth, if open). This lasted for about a week; the birds and reptile probably finally heard me cursing them for not ridding me of the plague.
Last week, while my daughter was in Maryland, it was my assigned task to take care of the dogs (they need to be walked several times per day). On one of my care giving journeys I noticed a rather large group of flying insects attacking a flower bearing shrub in the back yard. They were butterflies. As far as I know butterflies do not bite humans.
As I neared the shrub, one of them flew directly at me and landed on the left sleeve of my shirt. I was walking one of the dogs at the time and therefore moving. This was of no concern to the butterfly. In fact he moved to my chest about an inch above my hearth. Don’t think for one minute that I didn’t consider smashing the thing before he moved on; I did. It shortly left to join the others in his group, which probably saved his life.
After walking the dogs I called a friend who has a large butterfly collection adorning the walls of his Rec-room. I told him the story and described the butterfly and he said that he had one of those things on his wall. I then asked him what its name is. He sez “How the hell should I know, I just buy them for decoration purposes.” Then he tells me that in some cultures, a butterfly landing on you is considered to be the harbinger of good fortune. These must be the same cultures that believe a bird defecating on you is good luck.
The Beach Bum
Labels: Birds, Birthdays, Chicago, Insects, Memories