The frogs in the newly flooded wetlands croaked their discordant bass notes; I was trying to sneak up on them and had started to rise above the tall grass around the bog. I felt a little like Godzilla suddenly seen rising above the hills around Tokyo (does everyone carry around movie images in his head for just such occasions). Then I noticed that Wolfie was
sniffing at and jumping back from something on the ground. I got to him in time to prevent him from eating the caterpillar, a thick, yellowish, five-incher with 4 yellow horns on its back, a fashionista caterpillar. At home I found its photo; it will later transform into the Imperial Moth.
I moved it out of the grass and into a shadowed place, hidden among brush and trees; maybe it would have a better chance there, away from mower blades and sharp-eyed crows. Odd, that even among insects and their ilk our actions sometime lead us to search for safe shadows for them and thus wish for a creature utterly machine-like in its instincts to gain a better chance for its life to unfold.
Not all insects. I’ve poured gasoline down yellow jacket nest holes, flipped the match and watched the puff of flame and listened to the dim crackle that followed. One time in
the Adirondacks hiking off trail I watched a young woman, running, throw off her pack and strip down to her underwear to try to escape ground nesting wasps she had disturbed. She was allergic to their venom. We had to inject her with an antidote and get her to medical aid before she lapsed into anaphylactic shock.
Still…. I remember one moment from a long ago TV show that bothers me even now. The camera was positioned behind the teacher and to his side. We were looking at an ant colony compressed between two panes of glass, a familiar teaching tool probably found in hundreds of classrooms. We watched the faces of teenagers surrounding the ant-colony. The teacher was speaking about the effects of the explosion of a nuclear bomb – something about all oxygen being sucked away by a pressure wave. That is all I remember. Then he lit a match and held it to the unplugged access point of the colony. He must have applied a chemical of some kind beforehand. There was a loud smackkk and smoke and then all the ants were dead. The teenagers’ faces registered shock. I felt it too. I remember thinking something like “My God, did they have to kill those ants?”
I think a measure of goodness in most of us is repelled by certain forms of cruelty, but I know that I also have that Dirty Harry side to me that rises up rarely and then all I think is
“vengeance is right.”