Mosquitoes: I had pretty much forgotten about mosquitoes. I don’t remember seeing more than one or two last year. I carried DEET with me when I was in the field last spring and summer, but I never used it. I had a spray bottle in the truck-100 percent DEET, powerful stuff. It gathered dust, like a relic, and rattled around when I drove on bumpy roads.
In time, it was turned under in the detritus of accumulated stuff: a camo face mask from turkey hunting, a pair of work gloves, a camera lens cloth. They all piled up on top of the DEET until it was lost to both sight and memory. Sometime in late fall, I cleaned out the truck and found the DEET and put it on a shelf in the garage as if it was part of a collection of outdoor gear.
It was dry last summer; there were not many mosquitoes. I did not miss them. Now they’re back. No surprise; you could see that coming after the snow and rain of April and early May. They’re back and so are the ticks, and we’re into the season of summer pests again.
The ticks don’t bother me as much; I use a good tick repellant and that works. I put another repellant on the dogs; they’ve both had Lyme’s in the past. Only trouble is that the ticks flee the dogs in the middle of the night and find their way to me. I wake in the darkness and feel a tick crawling. You know how that goes-once you feel one, you think you feel another and sleep does not come easily after.
So we’ve got the early season two-pack, ticks and mosquitoes. And they’ll give way to the deer flies and the horse flies come the hot weather. Black flies too; their season draws near.
And all this bugginess follows a spring that never seemed to get here; late snowfalls and weeks of dreary gray skies that never give a glint of sunlight. It all caused people to complain a bit. It caused them to grouse a lot (I like the word “grouse,” even though it seems a strange word, better suited for upland birds. I wonder how it came to be used to describe complaint.). We all groused.
Now with the mosquitoes and wood ticks, we can grouse some more if we wish; all things are better with practice, so by now we are all pretty adept at this.
All that complaining about a winter that stayed too late and a spring that never seemed to come and about mosquitoes and wood ticks and bad fishing and late ice and, well, all of that and more, all that complaining, all that grousing, we do that a lot. We can get pretty worked up about it.
But it all seemed pretty trivial come last Monday afternoon. That’s when word came about big weather in Oklahoma and of a tornado that some newspapers simply called “The Monster.”
You feel pretty stupid about complaining of chilly mornings when you turn on the TV and see the stories coming out of Oklahoma. You feel pretty dumb grousing about mosquitoes and ticks and snowfall in May. You feel that way when you see what bad weather truly is and that’s what we saw on Monday.
It was nice here on Monday; got up in the 70s and there was talk of some rain coming in. We could use the rain. That would green things up and bring the apple trees and lilacs to blossom. There was talk on the weather reports Monday of maybe some thunderstorms on the way.
Then I turned on the TV and saw a town in Oklahoma that I’d never heard of: Moore. I wondered how they chose that name. I looked it up, found that it was first named Verbeck then changed to Moore, after a railroad worker. Thought to myself, reminds me of Rhinelander, also named after a railroad man. Not a lot of difference in age between the two places, Rhinelander and Moore; each founded within about 10 years of one another.
Moore, Oklahoma. I got to know about Moore on Monday evening when I turned on the news. But there was not much left of Moore, Oklahoma, by then.
I watched the news; it was nonstop. Watched the grim calculus of damage and fatalities and wind speed and area destroyed as if somehow putting numbers to all of this would make it what? More understandable? More easy to comprehend? To compare?
I watched the news people try to find words and try to find images and try to describe it all. I watched that as the sky grew dark over Moore as night fell like a heavy curtain over the drama. I watched it and could not comprehend it, the horror and the terror and unimaginable damage when The Monster came to Moore.
At a certain point, it started to blur and the stories seemed to repeat themselves and the news video ran as if a loop back to where it had started and then played again and it all seemed the same. I turned the TV off.
It was dark outside and I called the dogs and we went out into the night. It was calm, quiet, peaceful. I could not see the dogs in the dark past the fringe of the light from the porch. I could hear them moving in the darkness, but they were lost to me save for that. I thought of the dogs in Moore, Oklahoma, the pets in the homes that were destroyed and the dogs that they would bring in the next day to search the rubble for scent.
My dogs came to me and I bent to rub them behind the ears and told them that they were good dogs. There was a mosquito in the dark and I slapped at it halfheartedly. Then the dogs and I went inside for the night and turned off the lights and called it a day.
In the middle of the night thunder woke us and I lay in bed and watched the flash of lightning and heard the rattle of rain and waited for the wind to rise.
But the wind never came and the storm did not last; the dogs settled in and I fell back into sleep. And I slept well, except for the times when I woke in the darkness, my mind filled with images of Moore, Oklahoma, that flickered like an old-time movie in the dark night.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander. Call (715) 362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNow.com.