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Front Page » June 23, 2009 » Opinion » Staff column: So listen and learn from your mother
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Staff column: So listen and learn from your mother


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Do you remember all the things your mom told you about staying safe and healthy when you were a kid?

Maybe she still tells you that stuff even though you have been out of the house for 35 years.

Anyway there is a myriad of that kind of advice that you can probably remember. Things like button your coat up when it is cold, eat all your spinach, don't eat yellow snow, and of course the most famous of all was don't shoot your eye out (mostly reserved for boys who got BB or pellet guns when they were nine or 10 years old).

The advice my mother gave me so many years ago comes home to roost every once in awhile. And even when what happens isn't exactly what your mother gave you advice about, you can still hear her saying it when you do some stupid thing as an adult.

Let's look at an example I was recently involved in. Her advice to me would be to watch out and be careful not to stand in an ant bed. Sometimes her advice had double meanings. With the ant bed she meant not to get hurt, but also not to hurt creatures that may be innocent of anything but existence.

Standing in an ant bed isn't exactly what happened to me, but what did happen was a close approximation. To understand where this mother's voice in my head comes from, however, you need to know the history of ants and me.

When I was a kid I was transfixed on ants. I loved all kinds of them from the big red ones to the little tiny black sugar ants. I'd catch them and create bottles of them on a wall by our house. One time I even took a bottle of them in the house to watch them build their caverns and accesses. But my mother wasn't too keen on that idea and she made me take them back outside.

As I got older and got more testostrone in my system my thoughts about ants became darker. Instead of catching them and watching their constructive modes, I began killing them in various ways. My favorite was to light ant beds on fire. I was certainly a little bugger during that time period.

I remember using those plastic bottles with a squirt top on them (women will remember these as the bottles you applied solution to curlers that were in their hair to make the curls set up) and filling them up with gasoline. My sister was a hair dresser so we had a million of them laying around the house. Anyway I would fill these up, squirt a little gas on a big ant bed (we had some huge ones in the pasture at our dairy farm) and throw a match on it. As the gas burned out I would then squirt more on the ant hill.

My mother found out what I had been doing (because somehow one of the neighbors had seen me and I was turned in) and I got hell for that. At first she was just worried about me, but in the end she told me unless it was for some use such as food, we should never unnecessarily kill other animals, even insects. It was hard for me to understand because when you live on a farm almost every bug seems to be a pest and I remember dad and my uncles spraying continually for those kinds of critters.

But I ignored what she said and still carried on, just being sure no one would see me from then on. I burned more beds in the same fashion and after doing this a few more times, I found that flames tend to travel up a stream of gasoline right to the bottle. It was a magical thing to me until one of them literally blew up in my hands. Luckily I escaped any burns, but that was the last time I ever did it realizing what could happen, and that my mother was right.

She also found out about this incident somehow (I never figured that one out) and then used the morally correct argument on me. Before her final lecture on this subject to me was over I was reminded that what goes around, comes around, and that bad behaviour would always come back to haunt a person.

What a stupid kid I was. After that I stopped being the Murray fire bomber.

However, what she didn't mention in the lecture at the time is that this bad behavior would be rewarded 40 years after I had done the original dastardly deed.

A couple of weeks ago we had a barbecue at our house and there were a number of little kids there. They of course were running around the yard with soda cans in their hands, spilling it as they went.

For some reason this year I seem to have an inordinate number of ants around my place; the beds are seemingly everywhere. Consequently the ants were having a good time picking up on the syrupy mess.

Anyway the next evening I donned an old pair of shoes from the back porch that I wear when I feed my dogs. I went out to the kennels and began to shovel food into a bucket to take from run to run when I got this kind of hot burning feeling on my upper legs. Then as the dogs were barking widely as they usually do at feeding time, I felt the burning move to more unmetionable parts of my anatomy. I dropped the bucket; something was biting me left and right. There in the kennel I pulled off my pants and they were full of ants. I started brushing myself off, but the biting continued. I ran up to the house (yes, with no pants on) and began spraying myself with a hose.

Well the damage was done, even though I washed the final ant away with the stream of water. I was screaming and my wife came out to see what had happened. If she had not seen how mad and how much pain I was in I am sure she would have started laughing at me standing behind the house, mostly naked with a hose in my hand and water dripping from my body. She sympathized with me as I ran in the house and took a shower.

When I got out of the shower the hurt was still on. It lasted for about two hours as I scratched and itched and kept thinking more ants had dropped on me from above. Luckily the ants that got me were the little black ones and not big red ones. It was also then that my wife discovered what had happened.

My shoes on the back porch were about three feet from a small ant bed and someone had spilled soda in a trail from the bed right over the top of my shoes where the ants were gladly taking the sugars in. When I put my shoes on, there they were and they went after the nearest thing that was moving; me and my body parts.

As my mother would have said to me if she were alive today, "you got what you deserved" for all the terrrible things I did so many years ago to those ant beds. Once again she was right; what comes around, goes around. Obviously, time (and stupidity) is no barrier to any actions we can be compensated for.

So listen and learn from your mother.

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June 23, 2009
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