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The Major Anthill Invasion and Demolition Team

by Pam Shirk, North Carolina, USA


Some years ago, back before Rob and I were married, and when Mike was less than a year old, we spent July 4th at Howard's, a college friend of Rob's house, with him, his family and assorted older college persons. Lewiston Idaho, on July 4th tends to be hot, dry, clear, and boring.

While I carried little Mike into the house to visit with the various women, Rob and Jason joined the men sitting on the porch spitting watermelon seeds and shooting the breeze. We were inside giggling at Spooky the cat who was running laps on the walls, and talking about women things, our kids, jobs, schools, how idiotic our hubbies are, you know the usual stuff we tend to fill our time with, when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang.

Spooky, a skinny blue/black cat with a spastic temperament and really fast feet had been doing lazy loops up the side of the wall. With the bang he went into over drive. All one could see was a black blur zipping across the wall at about waist height. He ran his first lap of every wall in that little house in less than 30 seconds. He was on his third lap by the time we got outside to see what was happening.

I had figured that one of the cargo barges traveling up the Snake and Clearwater rivers had blown up and that was why all the men and boys were standing on the edge of an embankment that overlooked downtown Lewiston. There was even smoke rising up from in front of Howard as proof of an explosion. My son, Jason, was jumping up and down excitedly and the echo from the explosion was still bouncing from one side of the canyon to the other.

For those who have never been to Lewiston Idaho, the town/small city is placed on the top and right side of where two rivers (the Snake and Clearwater rivers) meet. It looks sort of like a large T from the air. The left side of where the rivers meet is the much smaller town of Clarkston Washington. The two towns get along pretty well, as there are definite advantages to straddling the border to two states. The rivers sit in a sort of canyon with walls that are over 2000 feet tall on the northern side. Loud noises echo back and forth for a long time.

We womenfolk rushed up to where the men were laughing and pointing down the embankment. One could see the streets of downtown Lewiston, ordinarily a quiet place on a holiday, but now crawling with cops looking for the source of the explosion. I noticed that there was a pistol in Howard's hand. Smoke had been pouring out of the barrel and black spots were on Howard's hands and arms. Howard had dug out his muzzle loader and was showing it off. The cops must have thought that someone was planning on blowing up the fireworks for that night's display.

Howard's wife, Debby, told him to knock it off before he got us all arrested and went back into the house. I went back in and checked on Mike who had slept through all of the noise, along with one of Deb's kids. Deb's sister said that neither of the babies had so much as twitched a muscle with all of the commotion going on. Spooky, however, was still running the walls. He was a very neurotic cat, and living with Deb, Howard and three kids was not helping his condition any.

We'd just settled down to talk about the stupid pranks of men, when another explosion happened. I was delegated to go out and find out what those nuts were up to this time. Turned out that the cops had stopped looking for the mad bomber and the guys decided to stir things up again. I looked out over the hill, if anything, there were even more cops down there than before. I figured that the off duty shifts must have been called in early to look for the lunatic who was blowing up downtown.

I told them to stop firing any kind of pistol, gun, rifle or other weapon, or not get dinner, and went back into the house. Spooky was still running the walls but there was a kind of glazed look in his eyes now, sort of fixed and staring. I knew better than try to stop him as I'd donated blood to Spooky's favorite charity in the past. I could only hope that he'd calm down before having a nervous breakdown. Of course the babies had slept through all the noise.

We were in the process of cooking corn on the cob, placing salads, and other foods on the table and firing up the charcoal grill when we heard the next explosion. I went out to cuss the guys out for not keeping their word.

They explained to me that they had kept their word, I didn't tell them they couldn't blow up ant hills using black powder and the shaft from an aluminum arrow. They were on their second explosion and ants were running for their lives. Rob placed the arrow shaft, Howard poured "just a little more powder this time," then lit a fire cracker and dropped it down inside the arrow shaft. It exploded, the arrow shaft shot into the air and dirt flew. The guys thought it was fantastic. Debby was not happy. She had forgot to bring her laundry in from the clothes line and the sheets were now covered with dirt and bits of ants.

The guys wouldn't promise not to blow up ant hills, so we weren't able to stop them. The noise was low enough that the police were no longer looking for the mad bomber, and Spooky had finally collapsed from sheer exhaustion. The ants were no longer boiling out of the ant hill with each explosion. Like Spooky, they seemed to be getting used to all the noise. There was a sort of "ho hum, here we go again, kicked out of our nice hill once more" quality about each successive evacuation from their home.

Finally, Rob stuck the arrow in and it apparently hit a rock, combined with the heat stress on the arrow from all the previous explosions. They filled the arrow shaft 3/4 full with Black powder, dropped in the lit firecracker and ran for cover. The fire cracker went off, but the arrow shaft didn't fly into the air this time. Instead it split into five sections and starred out. The arrow shaft was no longer usable.

We women added up the damage. We had extra police chasing after the echo up and down the river from the pistol shots, there was a large hole in the middle of Deb and Howard's yard, the ants were looking for new quarters, what there was left of them, and Spooky was never the same. He'd always been a skittish cat, but now he wore a hunted look. He glanced over his shoulder frequently and loud noises would make him shudder then hide. Later that night, he got his revenge by biting Howard on the thumb hard enough to make him bleed. Howard said that it was only fair, Spooky was justified in his reaction to Howard as the instigator of all the stress Spooky had to endure. We couldn't disagree.


Editor's note:

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