The Great Outdoors


Mosquitoes, Lyme Disease, and Other Wonders of Nature.


by Bill Wines


Now that summer is fast approaching and the last rock-hard mounds of sooty snow have disappeared, it's time to start thinking about all the wonderful outdoor activities waiting for us here in the beautiful Blue Water area.

What's with this "Blue Water" stuff, by the way? Everything around here is "Blue Water" this or "Blue Water" that. The bluest water I've ever seen was in some of the run-off tanks at Dow Chemical Company in Midland. Peculiarly bluish water, in my opinion, is nothing to brag about.

We had a little jingle back in college that made the round of the dormitories this time of the year: "Hooray, hooray, it's the first of May, outdoor sex begins today."

I suppose when you're young, the prospect of doing the wild thang in the woods is really appealing. Of course, when you're young, the only alternative is to keep doing it in a car, which loses its luster after awhile. Remember, "Ouch, what's that?" and it turns out you've been skewered in your nether regions once again by the gearshift. (I won't even mention the back seat-- by the time I was old enough to go hormonal, most back seats weren't even big enough to sit in.)

So off to the woods and beaches and fields we went. And my girlfriend would somehow have to explain to her parents how she got that poison ivy rash all over the best parts of her body.

Approaching middle age, I suddenly got this urge to "rough it." My wife and I accumulated all this camping equipment and set off for the pristine climes. There I learned a few things about the higher pleasures of camping. Like trying to pitch a tent. I may as well be trying to do differential calculus. And what about those propane "camp stoves"? Did you ever actually try to cook anything on those contraptions? Our ancestors had a much better idea when they sat there rubbing sticks together after the big mammoth hunt.

Camping does get you closer to nature, though. Closer, especially, to some of the most vicious insect species on the face of the earth. Deer flies are amazing creatures. Oh, sure, you can saturate yourself with chemical repellents, but all that does is keep them from biting you. It doesn't keep them from following you everywhere you go, your head surrounded at every moment by a buzzing cloud of the little bastards. It made me so crazy once, that I came up with this cunning plan to do them all in by jumping off a cliff, until I remembered that they can fly and I can't.

Then there are the legendary Upper Peninsula black flies, which look like ugly, hairy black kiwi fruits with wings. Hasn't Clive Barker written a story about these nightmarish monstrosities?

If you've lost your yen for camping, you can always do the standard suburban barbecue scene. Try this as a prescription for insanity: Invite about ten or fifteen people over for a cookout, and slap those steaks and burgers on the grill. All the guys in the crowd will want to get in on the action. Deep discussions will ensue about how to make those charcoal briquettes burn faster, longer, and cleaner. Elaborate debates will arise about how to lock in those flavorful juices. Fights will break out over the best time to flip a particular piece of meat so it doesn't stray over from medium rare to medium.

In the meantime, the women will be jammed into the kitchen swapping recipes for potato salad and snickering about how stupid men are.

And the kids? Well, they're all in the back yard throwing dangerous projectiles called "lawn darts" at each other. I can't understand a society that is so concerned about the welfare of its children that its best scientific minds are devoted to developing bottle-caps that kids can't unscrew (and we all know how well THAT'S worked out), and yet permits the marketing of these winged spears as fun recreational utensils.

Okay, so I'm not much of an outdoorsman. But, hey, I LIKE the summertime. Who wouldn't, considering what winter's like? There's one thing, however, that I would change concerning this time of the year if I were Emperor of the World. You know these guys who always feel this urge to fire up the lawnmower and cut the grass at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning? Sure you do. Every neighborhood has one.

I would round them all up and send them off to cut grass in the Crab Nebula.

Well, gotta go. I hear the kids screaming in the back yard. Must be another dart's found its mark.

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