Black Cats, Oklahoma Ant Wars and Guy Fawkes Kabooms

black cat color


Yesterday was *Guy Fawkes Day, which they celebrate in New Zealand by shooting off fireworks.

It sounded like we were under fire from both flanks. It was so intense that the Crack Puppy, never bothered by kabooms in the past, was a basket case.

I was torn.

On one hand, I wanted to scream out the window “Get off my lawn,” or something equally Geezer-like.

On the other hand, I wanted to join in and blow up **ant beds .

If you grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, the best thing about the Fourth of July was Black Cats.

I could spend hours and hours, pushing the firecrackers into ant holes and blowing them up, just to show the ants exactly who was in charge.

Annoyingly, over the years, the ants seemed to evolve. Or maybe it just dawned on them that if they saw me holding a firecracker and walking toward their ant hill, I was about to ruin their whole day.

So they started getting all strategic. After I’d lit a fuse and jumped away, several of the stupid hero ants would climb onto the burning fuse, get turned into silver death, and extinguish the fuse. So no kaboom.

This meant I had to wade back into the ant hill and try to light a fuse that was now perhaps one-eighth-inch long. It’s hard enough to do that when there are no distractions.

But when dozens of ants have “evolved” and learned how to climb onto the fuse to save their ants and uncles (it had to be said), soon enough they also realize what all football coaches know:

The best defense is a good offense.

So they started splitting up into two groups. The hero ants who would hurl themselves onto the fuses. Meanwhile, the fricken jihadi ants who would climb up my legs as far and fast as they could go and sting the fire out of me.

Which would require that I GET WAY MORE THAN EVEN.

Now, if you are a boy of say, between 10 and 58, when you are holding explosives, what little commonsense you might have had sort of goes up in smoke.

Like Vietnam

During a particularly nasty battle with the red bastards, I had been stung more times than I had successfully blown up their stupid ant hills.

So, clearly, I needed to pour gasoline on it.

Figuratively. I mean, I was stupid, but not THAT stupid. Besides, my Dad was a Fire Marshall, and I knew full well what would happens if I ignited gasoline: my Dad the Fire Marshall would kill me.

So, no gasoline.

Instead, I got the shovel with the long handle and decided to impale it right next to the ant hill down the road, uproot the whole dang thing, and then — here’s the great part — light a 100-pack of Black Cats and carpet bomb the little stinging bastards.

It was a great plan. At least on paper. Much like the Little Big Horn, I suspect.

Things are always different when boots, or in my case, Converse tennis shoes, are on the ground, in battle.

This particular battleground was like concrete because it was August in 100-plus-degree Oklahoma. It was just not possible to stab the shovel into the ant hill from a safe distance. The shovel just glanced off the concrete dirt prompting all the guy ants to laugh at me. I swear.

So I went to Plan B. This called for me to leap over the ant hill and, in one smooth motion, hurl the long-handled shovel deep into the anthill, just as my Indian ancestors had hurled their lances into wild buffalo.

In retrospect, it would have been easier to kill buffalo.

The leaping and lancing thing accomplished nothing, except for kicking up dirt and the occasional pissed off ant, which fell into my Converse and stung me before going to aunt heaven.

After much exasperation, I decided it was time to suck it up, strap on a pair, and go to war.

I decided to simply walk up to the ant hole, put the shovel tip in the ground, and, while balancing on my right leg, hammer my left foot onto the shovel until it was embedded into the ant hill.

At which point I would step away, light the long string of Black Cats, leap onto the shovel, overturn the ant hill, expose the enemy, drop the Black Cats, leap out of harm’s way, and totally go all Bruce Willis on their little, stinging red ant butts.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

At least that was the plan.

But, as I said, the ground was like concrete. And I was not a big kid. So I had to jump and jump and pound and pound, trying to get the stupid shovel into the ground.

Meanwhile, approximately 10 million angry red ants were racing up the shovel like tiny little terrorists. They leaped from the shovel onto my arms and exposed legs.

Some stung me on impact. But the truly evil ones ran up my bare legs, got under my cut-offs, and proceeded to sting me with reckless abandon right in the Boy Zone, if you catch my drift.

Ladies, you may not be able to understand exactly how much this hurt. Let us just say that it hurt a lot.

But, as a guy, I innately knew that casualties were part of warfare.

So I just kept leaping up and down on the shovel, while simultaneously trying to smash the ants in my pants without smashing my boy bits.

After what seemed like ages, I had finally succeeded in breaching the enemy ants’ fort.

And I could see bazillions of the bastards. All of them crazy angry. Running in all directions. Some carrying eggs. Some throwing little tiny hand grenades at me.

I was winning this war, but it was not over.

I stifled my Bruce Willis’ Smirk, lit the fuse, leaped over the exposed Ant Hill of Doom and released the Black Cat payload.

black cats

It was beautiful, until the strand of firecrackers bounced right out of the hole. For a 10-year-old, I said some pretty grown-up words.

I knew I had mere seconds to act, so I quickly started scooting the firecrackers back into the Hole of Death, which was now teeming with billions of deranged red ants.

By the time I had gotten the firecrackers back in the hole, I had been stung, conservatively speaking, 10,000 times. Maybe more.

But that was not the worst part.

See, I had decided to lean way over the ant hole so I could see them and they could see me as I blew them to kingdom come.

What I had not considered was that about a gillion ants had by now climbed onto the firecrackers. When the all started to explode, one immediately after another, the explosions propelled entire battalions of completely unreasonable ants up into the air, onto my head and down my shirt.

Who’s Your Ant Daddy?

It took me about 1.3 seconds to get out of my shirt and cut-offs, and maybe another 10 seconds to flail at all the stinging ants with my shirt.

I have no idea how many times I was stung. I was covered with welts on my chest and arms and legs. My neck was on fire.

I had so much ant venom in me that I was sick to my stomach and started to get a fever. So I left the shovel and limped home.

Despite the fact that I had almost been killed in this daring mission, my mother was not at all happy. Go figger.

In fact, she sent me back into harms way the very next day to collect the stupid shovel.

On the long walk to the battleground, I started to smile, and then to gloat. Sure, I’d been stung, but did I kick those stupid ants’ butts or what?

But when I got to the scene of the epic battle, it was like nothing had happened. They had rebuilt everything overnight.

Dozens of ants were still walking up and down my shovel handle, ready to sting it to death if it so much as flinched.

There was nothing to do but shake off the ants, declare victory, and go home.

Which brings us back to fireworks in New Zealand.

I don’t think the neighbor’s kids really “get” fireworks, because they mainly shoot the “rockets-red-glare” kind.

They don’t use firecrackers to blow up stuff.

And, deep in my heart, I know this has to make Guy Fawkes sad.

Because if you can’t blow up Parliament, at least you should blow up ants.

It’s what guys do.


*Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the British Parliament Building in 1605 with barrels of gunpowder which, when you think about it, is far more efficient than voting.

** New Zealand has no ant beds. Which begs the question: where do they sleep?

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