Chasing Fireflies

Every evening after supper (before I was deemed big enough to wash dishes) I chased fireflies with two older brothers and a younger sister. The grass was cool and damp under our bare feet. The bitterish smell of boxwood wafted in the air when we dashed around the corner of the house. The sun might just have set and the dusky last light of day was perfect for spying the little blinking “airplanes” of the night.

I learned how to catch them and how to hold them gently. If you possess a firefly too aggressively it will kill him and, not only will his light be gone, but you will smell a strong offensive odor on your hands even after you wash with Octagon soap.

We were fascinated by the lightning bugs (same as fireflies) and did sometimes collect several in a pint jar to glow in the night. But our parents, especially Mamma, were adamantly opposed to any perceived cruelty to any creature, so we always let them fly away before too long. Our fascination didn’t go so far as to our doing any scientific studies. Catching them and watching them was enough.

When Charles and I moved to our pre-Civil War house on South Broad, Cairo, in the ’70’s, we discovered there were no fireflies there. I wondered why there were no lights blinking as twilight deepened, and I missed them. Our children didn’t have the fun of chasing fireflies at our house. Then, forty-two years later, we moved across town and, as that first summer approached, here came the fireflies. I was absolutely delighted. I don’t know what is different about this yard that they like so much more. Maybe it’s a little more moist or perhaps there’s vegetation that draws them. Anyway, we love to sit on our porch in the early evening and watch the lights come on.

Since we’re a bit older now, maybe even a tiny bit wiser, we’ve become very interested in the “life and times” of the firefly. We’ve found far more information than will fit in this blog. But here are a few facts and observations I jotted down from the “glowing” reports I read!

The firefly has a 2-week mating season annually. Each species has its own flash pattern. Charles has identified a pattern displayed by our fireflies, a certain glow down low, then a dip upwards and up again until he’s even in the leaves of the maple tree. But the gruesome fact about the patterning is that the females of the Photuris species replicate the patterns of another species of males, lure them with their sparkle, then eat them. So much for sweet romance!

The quantity and quality of firefly mating is affected by factors such as moisture, temperature, and the fullness of the moon.

In case you wanted to know something about the firefly’s geneology, I should tell you their cousins are the luminescent glow worms which are also in the Lampyridae family. How’s that for an identifying last name?

Now for the life cycle of a firefly. North American fireflies spend two years underground as larvae. No flashing there, just darkness and gloom and the smell of earth. (Except for some species that actually do glow even in the earth, like their glow worm cousins.) But the wicked truth is that even at this stage some of these little critters are cold blooded killers. Some species have a numbing venom they can inject into unsuspecting snails and slugs before they move into their shells or bodies and eat them from the inside out. Not exactly a neighbor you’d want to be cozy with.

I hasten to say there are more than 2,000 species of the firefly worldwide, and some are not as mean as others.

But back to the life cycle. After the larvae stage the firefly goes into the pupa stage (not to be confused with pupil!). In this stage he emerges from the ground and, in the case of some species, creeps and crawls up the bark of certain trees. There, one fine evening, the pupae become fireflies/lightning bugs. Just for your information, these little flying black and orange insects aren’t flies and neither are they bugs. They are beetles.

So we’re back to the beautiful stage, the stage where we can reach out and let a “beetle” land on our hands. We can watch this little lightly striped creature crawl up a thumb and fly away, or we can capture him in a jar for a longer look. He certainly doesn’t appear to be evil.

A firefly’s entire purpose is to produce more fireflies. (He doesn’t realize God made him to bring cheer to humans.) When the female lays her eggs on the bark of a pine tree she lays about one hundred which will sift and shift to the ground where the cycle begins again.

Usually lightning bugs are not in sync when they light up. We see one here and then one there, one low, then one high. Males light their signal as they fly from a lower position to a higher place while females supposedly give their communicative answering blink from shrubbery where they seductively hide. But there are two areas in the world where fireflies do light simultaneously: the Great Smoky Mountains and Southeast Asia. In the Smokies the show is so predictable and wonderful that campers annually descend on places like Elkmont, Tennessee to observe the fireworks from blankets and folding chairs. In Asia the fireflies, several species of the genus Ptereoptyx, light simultaneously in mangrove trees and nipa palms. Sometimes, according to reports, one can see a whole tree lit up at once.

We’re in awe of the dedicated scientists who have figured out all these facts by spending night after night prone in wet grass, or digging in the earth, studying tediously in their labs, even watching a pupa “caterpillar” eating his prey.

We are in awe, too, of the fascinating life and times of the firefly.

But we’re most in awe of Almighty God Who must have smiled when He first sent a pair of fireflies into the moist air from his thumb or wrist.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Visit With Some Hogs

IMG_1668.JPG

Oak trees met overhead making sunlight flicker on our truck as Charles drove us toward Metcalf, Georgia. A small voice behind me asked, “When will we be there, Grandaddy?” Kaison (4) and I were having a field trip with Grandaddy. He was going to the Stringers’ Farm to test some hogs and then to the sale barn in Thomasville to cast his eye on a hundred or so cows.

I couldn’t help remembering some of the early hog days when things were quite different.

The first time I saw my husband groveling in the mud at the back end of a 500 pound sow I thought, is this his reward for all those nights nailed to the chair in the pantry off our tiny kitchen in Athens? Is this what he prepared for when he was taking all those ologies (Histology, Microbiology, Hematology) and spending forever hours in labs? But even that day as we rode home with the smell of hogs thick in his first practice car, I could tell Charles was happy in an indescribable way. Yes, he’d be quick to clean up when he got home. He wasn’t really fond of the mud or the squeals. But he loved relieving pain and making things better for patient and client. That day he’d delivered one little pig that was holding up the traffic so ten more could not make it out the tunnel to life.

He got hog calls day and night (of course, lots of other kinds of calls too!). He tested hogs for brucellosis and pseudo-rabies (keeping hogs and humans healthy), delivered pigs, came home with mud in his hair, climbed over all kinds of fences, kept a hammer with him for repairing gates, and always kept up a running conversation with the client and a whole peanut gallery of onlookers–that is, if the squeals weren’t at top level. He became convinced that at the full of the moon pigs squealed louder and longer.

On any given Saturday he might be found at Cairo Animal Hospital “cutting” pigs or giving shots in the back of Cleveland Copeland’s trailer. Or while we were lunching at home there might be a rattle and a squeal announcing the arrival of a hog owner seeking help. He also worked the huge farrowing houses where he’d work all day or maybe two or three days a season.

But then hog prices plummeted and finally they all but left Grady County. Now his hog calls are few and far between. But he does still receive them. Sometimes he chuckles when he says he’s going to “do” hogs because it may only be six instead of 306.

That was the case this day when Kaison and I rode with him. Kaison had mainly seen hogs in a book and I wanted him to meet one face to face.

A big old Hampshire boar hog came snorting up to the fence and Kaison, our very trusting one, started to reach out and pet him. I stopped that, explaining that one doesn’t pet big fat hogs. “Why?” “Well, because–he might take a bite of your shirt, Kaison.” Kaison looked at his shirt and seemed to be thinking he could let the hog have a bite of his shirt. Just then the sow Charles and Mr. Stringer were taking blood from and clamping an ear tag on let out a scream that would quite easily have reached Shanghai. Kaison clapped hands over his ears and gave up trying to pet the hog.

Kaison wondered about the big holes in the lot where Mr. Hog lived. When I told him the hog had dug those holes of course the next question was why. He wondered why Lady Hog was hollering so loud. He wondered why the hogs were different from each other. He wondered why Grandaddy had to take the sows’ blood. He wondered why the hogs didn’t want their shots. He wondered why the hogs were running away so fast when they were set free.

A wonderful child full of wonder! I tried to answer all his questions. I hope he’ll remember the day he visited the hogs with Grandaddy and Nana. And his visit to the sale barn too where he and Grandaddy walked together on the long boardwalks overseeing the backs of so many cows, black ones, black and white ones, brown ones, cows with long horns, cows with no horns, lots and lots of cows. He may remember the most eating applesauce (his choice!) at Chick Fil A and playing in their playground.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Springtime Treasures

Someone told me she was collecting waterfalls. She meant that she and her husband hunt for accessible waterfalls, she takes pictures, and then can recall each trickling or thundering one of them. I was intrigued. Now there’s a collection that would be such fun to build and wouldn’t have to be dusted. The same could be said for a collection of springtime treasures, even without the pictures. See if some of mine are in your collection.

  • A hillside covered with daffodils…Was it Robert Loveman who wrote “It’s not raining rain to me, it’s raining daffodils”?
  • A Japanese magnolia in full vibrant bloom, its pink blossoms of various shades the shape of tulips. (Of course our wonderful corner tree is in full leaf now but a few weeks ago it was a glorious sight and many neighbors mentioned how it cheered them on their way.)
  • Azaleas of pink, red, fuchsia and white blooming in stages so we enjoyed them for months. They were so beautiful, it made me want to do something!
  • Purple wisteria looking like bunches of Caleb’s grapes high in a pine tree letting us know we haven’t gotten rid of all the vines yet.
  • A bluebird reveling in a merry splash of fresh cool water in the bird bath.
  • A mother hen followed by fluffy yellow cheeping biddies. I’m remembering the spring when my two kids were little and talked me into getting them biddies at the feed store. Thunder and Lightning, they named them!
  • A mulberry tree alive with birds and squirrels nibbling on new leaves and berry buds.
  • A little child offering a fist full of iris blossoms, the ones which you’d finally coaxed into blooming.
  • A wide field with rows and rows of tiny corn blades barely showing against the Georgia red soil.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal literally sharing a worm right before my eyes (now as I write this).
  • A hummingbird finding our feeders and whirring off to tell his neighbor.
  • White puffy clouds piled high in a perfect blue sky with sunlight casting shadows so the clouds look to have valleys and caves and mountain slopes.
  • Strawberries and tomatoes and crookneck squash displayed in abundance at the market.
  • My Mamma years ago happily planting her garden; the smell of disturbed tomato plants trying to put down roots; or the smell of tiny wild strawberries on our fingers after we’d picked enough for a shortcake.
  • The sheer happiness of my two whittling brothers making whistles of sourwood when the springtime made the wood supple and right–and their vigorous competition to see whose whistle blew the loudest.
  • The first pot of fresh English peas on Mama Graham’s stove and Papa Graham in his overalls hoeing grass out of the peas and corn.
  • The scent of fresh mown grass and wild onions.
  • The sight of my veterinarian standing at the door covered literally head to toe with blood, mud, and whatever else a herd of cows causes–and grinning from ear to ear, ready for a shower and supper.
  • At Pinedale, my home place, bluets on Tulip Hill, flame azalea by a north window, the sound of tree frogs as we went to sleep, the huge crabapple at the east turned from a wintry black skeleton into a fantastic pink princess.
  • At Lane of Palms, our home for forty-two years, red azalea bright against pine and palm, blueberries budding, jonquils around a northern pecan tree, a dog named Sam, red Irish setter floppy ears flying as he chased a bumble bee, and day lilies putting on a show along the driveway.

Now back to the collector of waterfalls, I wish I could remember who that was so I could find out how many she found, where they are, and what their names are. Ever hear someone talking about a waterfall collection? I think they’d have to choose some of the ones we know: Toccoa, Ruby, Dry, Amicalola, Panther Creek….

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:12

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Springtime in New York

IMG_1583.JPG

It was cold viewing the Statue of Liberty

Before we left on our spring break trip to New York, I said humorously, “New York will never be the same again!” And now that we’re home, Charles and I in Cairo, our daughter-in-law Christi and our three grandchildren in Birmingham, I realize how true that prophesy was. I’m not silly enough to think anyone is going to find our six sets of footprints on the concrete streets, the elevators, escalators, boats, buses, restaurants, museums, Ubers and taxis. But, to us, New York will never be the same again. We have a newer, clearer, truer picture of the social/arts/heartbeat city of our nation.

 

We studied dinosaur skeletons, Egyptian mummies, and African mammals at the Museum of Natural History. We took the Statue of Liberty cruise and did due homage to the beautiful iconic statue; we read about the plight of immigrants at Ellis Island, and enjoyed an extensive harbor cruise with a guide who filled us in on facts, scandals, and myths as he talked about bridges, buildings, and politics. We rode sightseeing buses all around the city always finding seats on top. Even in the rain we had glass over our heads and could see the streets full of yellow taxis, could view tall buildings crowding the sky, Radio City Music Hall, Trump Tower, the theater district with familiar titles that peaked our interest, and beautiful Central Park.

It was raining the afternoon we walked in Central Park but that was one of our must-see places so we did it anyway. It was still winter there the last week of March. Tree limbs were bare and brittle looking against a gray sky. But jonquils bloomed here and there. And quite often we spied patches of snow left from the blizzard two weeks before. It was cold and windy as we posed on a bridge in our ponchos for our picture in Central Park. As we walked back towards a street where we might catch a cab I could hear Mattie (8) behind me repeating plaintively every few feet, “But where is the playground?”

We went to a basketball game (Knicks vs. Pistons) in Madison Square Garden. We hugely enjoyed seeing our grandsons choose jerseys in the gift shop and we all, of course, rooted for the Knicks. We had delicious hotdogs and popcorn while watching the game from excellent seats. The fanfare and hoopla were up to all expectations, so colorful and festive. And the Knicks won!

IMG_1596.JPG

Central Park on a rainy day

We started out early on our last whole day in New York headed for the Empire State Building. This was one of our all-around favorite adventures, I think. We loved seeing the city, the harbor full of boats, the many bridges, everything, from the top. From there we took an Uber to Ground Zero.

 

The memorial to victims and heroes of 9/11 is so well done. And the museum, to me, is a must for a visitor to New York. We chose to do the self-guided tour which took about an hour and a half. The whole experience is horrendous, touching, and forever memorable. Through the use of videos, posters, pictures, pieces of walls, airplanes, personal things like a backpack or a purse, we were given a composite of the terror of that fateful day in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. A banged-up burned fire truck is there to remind you of those brave responders who climbed stairs to help others, knowing they wouldn’t be seeing the light of day again on this earth. As we entered the museum, we became very quiet in respect. There was no sound of laughter or chattering, just soft voices of explanation as we all tried to grasp the magnitude of what had happened and explain it to the children. The part which made tears well in my eyes was the sound of voices repeating their loved ones’ names at a memorial ceremony: “My father __________, my husband ________, my sister__________…” Our three children were really respectful and interested and I was so proud of them.

We really packed a lot into that last day. We had high tea at the Russian Tea Room at 3:00 in the afternoon. Charles tried to dash a little politics into the mix but didn’t get far! We all were treated like royalty in this extravagantly decorated place with soft music playing. We ate tiny sandwiches, little cakes, and drank our tea with pinkies curled.

All my life I’ve heard and read about Broadway plays but never been to one. Well, now I have! We went to see Lion King and had center mezzanine seats looking right down on the stage. I’d seen the movie over and over with different ones of the grandchildren so I was really curious as to how the actors would present this live performance. It was magnificent! The animals were all in character, either people with masks or people with lifesize puppets and other such inventive ways of bringing life on the stage. Sound and lighting and stage props made the desert so real and the hyenas so horrible! Charles had particularly intended to wear his hearing aids that night to be able to hear all the lines but—he forgot them! And he could hear anyway, the sound system, acoustics, and all were so good. I was truly charmed by young Simba and Nala, such cute children playing those parts.

When we left the theater to walk back to our hotel, Time Square was lit like daytime, or even brighter. We felt safe walking the street and enjoying one last evening of the competitive sounds of taxi cab horns, the tall lit buildings, the mass of humanity.

So how is my view of New York changed? First of all, everyone was very friendly and helpful, contrary to my idea of folks in big cities. Second, I knew the city was full of tall buildings but I couldn’t imagine one could ride for miles and miles and still be surrounded by tall buildings. Third, the masses—so many people of so many different cultures! I kept thinking as I’d look into their faces and wonder if they were just getting off work or were going to meet someone special or were like us, strangers in town—I’d think every person, every single person, is someone for whom Christ died, but only a few know that. Fourth, I felt a deep respect for law enforcement employees, more than ever before. And fifth, I’m more convinced than ever that we live in the most beautiful blessed area of the whole earth, our little corner of Southwest Georgia! But I do miss being able to go up so high and look out far and wide. And we miss the friendly Uber drivers.

IMG_1595[1]

A street scene in Chinatown

We all talked about our favorite part of the trip as we waited to board the plane back to Atlanta. Some enjoyed the Ninja Restaurant the best, some the Empire State Building, others the river and harbor cruises. But one of the things I’ll always cherish is the sound of our three Graham grandchildren enjoying games of Author cards and Categories in our neat room on the 12th floor of the RIU Plaza Hotel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mamma’s Own Leprechaun

It was March of 1990 and my mother had been in the hospital already that year more than she’d been in all her eighty-six years. We her children who lived hours away were taking turns to help the near siblings out in caring for Mamma. Our usually jubilant happy “Mamma” was discouraged after weeks of pain following a fall and we all wanted to see her return to doing the things she so loved to do: crocheting afghans, reading, cooking big Saturday breakfasts for all her sons, attending church and, of course, playing Scrabble.

It was my turn. I’d been sitting with Mamma only a day or two that Saturday morning when I realized her excruciating pain had hit a new high. A call to her doctor brought the command for her to go to the hospital. “I need to put her on IV therapy,” he said. Mamma refused. She’d had all her babies at home and had toughed it through many an illness without a hospital and she wasn’t going now. I called my sister Pat in North Carolina who talked Mamma into letting the ambulance come for her. The ride down her long winding driveway was pretty awesome, but I was just praying for Mamma to be helped.

Now it was many days later and still Mamma was hurting so much. She said the pain was more terrific than birthing any of her eleven babies. It was early in the morning after a long restless night. I was leaning over her bed fluffing her pillow one more time when I heard the door open. There was a shuffling of feet but no one appeared around the intervening wall. As I watched, though, I saw first a long pointy green finger creep around the corner, then just the top of a pointed hat followed by a round grinning face. Dr. Hamilton! Mamma’s doctor.

Dr. Hamilton was making his bedside calls that March 17 dressed from head to toe as an Irish something–leprechaun, elf?

He popped one foot up on Mamma’s bed the better to show off his green slipper and shamrock decorated tall sock.

Mamma let out a spluttering giggle, the first that had passed her lips in many a day. She looked at Dr. Hamilton and exclaimed, “You–you–monkey!” Then her pale face flushed at her own indiscretion.

Dr. Hamilton proceeded to play his very Irish tie, pressing something so that “Irish Eyes are Smiling” filled the room. Then he skipped on around her bed, lifted his green hat to reveal dark curls, and said so brightly, “Top o’ the mornin’ to you!” With that he popped himself up onto Mamma’s bed making himself comfortable.

Mamma’s blue eyes were open so wide by that time and I was choked with laughter. Who would have imagined Mamma’s Irish doctor would make such an elaborate act even on St. Paddy’s Day! Did he do this for all his patients? Maybe not. After all, this was Mamma.

Dr. Hamilton greatly admired my mother, according to my local siblings, because she was such a matriarch and reigned so gracefully as such. He had been quoted as saying he and his wife wanted to have as many children “as Mrs. Knight,” and Dr. Hamilton wanted lots of girls because he thought they would take better care of him than boys would. When he told Mamma that she said softly that boys did a very good job also. She would always defend her boys if she thought they were being slighted in the least.

Some years after that I heard Dr. Hamilton had seven boys–and a Rose! We hoped maybe he would be blessed with more girls after Rose came but it wasn’t to be that way. He now has eleven boys–and a Rose!

But back to Mamma’s recovery…From that St. Patrick’s Day it seemed to me Mamma had some spark back and gradually got better and better. After she went home from the hospital Dr. Hamilton made several home visits. Mamma improved so much that she was able to go with Charles and me on a wonderful autumn trip to New England. Charles’ mom went also. My mother was able to walk but only with a walker. Mama Graham needed only a cane. We visited Mama Graham’s dream place, Niagara Falls, and Mamma’s favorite, the Rocky Coast of Maine, and many other fantastic sights we all four enjoyed, a trip full of fabulous memories!

Mamma lived seven more years after that fall of hers. During all those years she never missed a time of inviting Dr. and Mrs. Hamilton and all their children to her house, Stone Gables, for tea and cookies during the Christmas holidays.

May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” –An Irish Blessing

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Yarning

IMG_1527

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

War On Stumps

It was sprinkling rain. But when I pointed that out to Charles (as if perhaps he hadn’t noticed the dampness on his back) he said it was keeping him cool! The big goal of the day was to succeed in digging at least one of the two huge dogwood stumps out of the ground and carry it away. Ulysses was here to help and the two men were taking turns chopping, digging, pounding away on roots that were so hard the mattock bounced back from every lick.

Charles and I had made the decision to cut the trees down last summer realizing that they were more dead than alive. It was really hot then. Charles said he’d wait until winter to dig the stumps out. Here it is nearly the end of February and he hasn’t found a truly winter day to work on those stumps. So this rainy dark morning would have to suffice!

After digging for a while and exposing several roots, Charles positioned the truck for pulling them out with a chain fastened to his trailer hitch. Ulysses attached the chain to a muddy stubborn root, Charles pulled forward slowly and out came the root to be thrown into the waiting wheelbarrow.

When I took my knitting (which seemed a nice job for a rainy morning) to the living room, I could hear the men calling to each other: “Whoa, Doc! OK, move up a little” or “Whoopee, there she comes!” or “Snub your chain tighter, Ulysses, we’ll try her again.” (Have you noticed that when men are working, any hard and stubborn thing is called a “she”?)

The wheelbarrow was getting full and there was a deep, wide hole now where the stump still presided.

Of course we’d rather by far have the two beautiful dogwoods on either side of our front yard blooming like white angels in March and April. But the dogwoods have been struck by Dogwood Anthracose (caused by Discula destructive), a disease first identified, I believe, in New York in the 1970’s and creeping since then steadily south through the Appalachian mountains and down the eastern seaboard. We were so hoping maybe the disease wouldn’t get this far, but here it is. Dogwoods until recently brightened our yards and woodlands with white blossoms in the spring and brilliant red berries and leaves in the fall. But now more and more of them have turned to stark leafless silhouettes.

So here we were making a war on dogwood stumps that were wide enough on which to serve a small teaparty. But, Charles declared, these stumps only have lateral roots, no taproot. “We will whip one at least by noon,” he said.

img_1519

Sure enough, well before noon, I heard a shout and hurried to the door. The stump was out! I went down to take pictures, wiping raindrops from my iPad. The great spidery lump of a stump rolled and bounced behind the truck as Charles pulled it to the debris pile.

img_1524

Stump #1 was out and where it came from was a gaping hole. After they filled the canyon in, only a bare spot remained. Charles will tease the grass back over that with his patient sprigging. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the lawn as it had been when those two beautiful dogwoods offered their gracious shade in the summer, their color in fall and winter, and their display of white in the spring.

Somehow, the following verses from Psalm 103:15-17 come to mind:

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized