Adrien’s Many Trails – July 25, 2019

ANTS: We’ve got them. We’ve ALL got ‘em this time of year. I can understand them wanting to get into a warm house in winter, but as hot as it is outside, I can’t imagine it bothers ant colonies much. But it must, given the intrusions.

My favorite poet, Robert Frost, wrote of many things (likely including shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings). He wrote: “An ant on a tablecloth ran into a dormant moth of many times his size. He showed not the least surprise; gave it barely a touch and was off on his duty run. But should he encounter one of the tribe’s enquiry squad he would put him onto the job.”

It’s not a short poem, as his “The old dog barks backward without getting up. I can remember when he was a pup.” Or “God please forgive my many jokes on thee; and I’ll forgive thy great big joke on me.” There may be a word of two askew here; my Frost anthology is at home.

Anyway, Frost goes on to describe the death/last rites of an ant named Jerry McCormick “our fearless forager Jerry.” The special janissary (a solemn mortician) is ordered by the queen to bring him home to his people, and so forth. Said mortitian appears on the scene, “and taking formal position, with feelers calmly atwiddle seizes the dead by his middle, heaves him up in the air, and carries him out of there. No one stands round to stare; it is no one else’s affair. It couldn’t be called ungentle, but so thoroughly departmental.” The poem is entitled “Departmental.”

As I said, Frost wrote about the world around him, the world of Vermont. I’ve been there just once, to a spinning conference (you might have guessed it). My sister, Brangwyn, was there for a few days then, and treated me to a short trip whale watching for my birthday. I can’t remember for sure, but I think we may have seen some. We did, while in Europe some years later, for sure. Well, maybe it was only one, and it was dead, but our ship was the first to report the event to the world. Hot stuff.

I digress again. On the subject of ants, we have several varieties here in Moab, notably the stinging red ants. I haven’t seen any hills out in the yard for a long time. But you definitely notice if you walk in their vicinity. They don’t actually sting, they bite.

I’m not sure where the common black ants have their homes. But I am quite sure that all ants bite. They don’t have stingers, but they have powerful mandibles. Proof is in the experience: even the tiny black and sometimes orange ants that Sam called “piss ants” from their smell (stink), bite. And for as tiny as they are, they give a memorable chomp.

Compared to the rest of Moab, I’m fairly close to the sloughs. I’ve had far more ant bites than mosquito bites this summer. Thanks, Mosquito Abatement District.