When you’re new to an area it takes a while to become familiar with the vegetation and creatures that inhabit your yard. Your neighbors will always be willing to help, not only because they’re nice people, but also because it’s so much fun for them to watch you try to implement bogus advice.
Lori and I were just starting to fix up our little place in Georgia, planting trees, mowing and such, when our dog Molly and I had our first experience with a paper wasp nest. As she watched us from the porch, it took a while for Lori to figure out what was going on. All she could see was Molly and me running for our lives, spinning around, snapping and swatting at the air like cartoon characters. Lori’s laughter turned into sympathy when she saw Molly’s golf ball sized swollen, upper lip. “Awww… Look at her.” She turned to me, ignoring my one gigantic red ear. “You’ve got to get rid of that nest!” (YES, I thought… a mission!).
Three trips to the hardware store and the hornets were not only still alive, but also really mad. Empty cans of spray were scattered everywhere and the pear tree was soaked with poison. Obviously I needed some local advice if I was to avenge our fat lipped Terrier and take back our yard so I jumped on my four wheeler and began riding from neighbor to neighbor, taking a poll regarding the best way to get rid of a paper wasp nest. “Just sneak up on it and then slip a bag over it. Then you can just carry it away!” said one neighbor, who had obviously always wanted to see someone try it. “Just knock it out of the tree with a stick” said another while partially covering his mouth with his hand to keep from laughing.
Finally I went to see Old Billy, whose family had been in Georgia so long they had likely evolved there from the very possums they now hunted. Billy, whose favorite expression is “Right ‘tween the eyes!” leaned over and spit tobacco juice out, then, eased back in his rocking chair and said “Ben, you gotta’ put fire to it! Wait til’ it’s good and dark out, then get a long stick with a kerosene rag on it, light it, stick it up under there and burn em’ up!” Finally!… an idea that made complete sense to the teenager that still resides inside of me. As I rode back to the house I thought how perfect this plan was. It involved fire, angry hornets, running around in the woods in pitch black darkness while carrying a long stick and a can of kerosene. It was perfect! I mean… What could possibly go wrong?
Having already lost one battle and an ear to the wasps, I decided to wear protective clothing for the mission. So I put on sweat pants and a hooded sweat shirt, rubber boots and gloves. Then, I cinched the hood tightly around my face and put goggles on. When night fell… I was ready. I snuck up on the sleeping wasps, lit the torch at the end of a twelve-foot long pole and then held the flame under the nest. It was soon engulfed in flames. Of course, so was part of the tree. “Collateral damage of war” I thought to myself as I watched it burn.
Several cars stopped out on the road, watching me. (Neighbors!) As I waived the still burning torch in victory, they all immediately sped off throwing gravel with their spinning tires. “Well that was kind of weird,” I said to myself, as I put down the torch, took my goggles and white hood off. I looked over at Lori on the porch and shrugged, but then turned to look at the pear tree. It was engulfed in flames right where the trunk and two branches intersected… in the shape of a burning cross!
Since that night we get very few visitors in Georgia anymore… mostly just Billy. For some reason, he’s always ready to help.