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Tag Archive: New Jersey

Jun 02

It is positively buggy out there

“We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.” –the late Bill Vaughan, Kansas City Star columnist

Had enough of bugs yet? Any cicada sightings?

I am already sick of bugs, however bug season in the Midwest is only just beginning, I am sorry to report.

Recently, I saw enough cicadas to last me for years.

Swarms of cicadas in the Missouri Ozarks, so many that they sometimes crunched under one’s feet. That is right, they crunch when you step on them.

This lovely outdoor spectacle is not quite as unsettling as when these prehistoric-looking creatures land on the back of your neck or settle into your hair.

Doesn’t this sound like a bad B-horror movie, “Return of the Giant Cicada”?

It was. I lived it, but part of what happened was my own fault.

It seemed like a great idea one evening to make smores over an open campfire. We do that a lot in the summer, but I must admit, this is the first time I roasted marshmallows in the midst of a cloud of arthropods. Most of the evening we spent picking scary giant bugs out of each other’s hair or out of our smores.

Cicadas landed on the marshmallows, got stuck in the melted Hershey bars, and were not at all afraid of the bonfire. A tall pole-light that stands nearby drew even more of these unpleasant invertebrates.

Shall we say it was a bad idea?

Despite consuming an occasional crunchy cicado that was stuck between graham crackers, some smores were consumed and enjoyed sans cicadas.

One online blogger, Good Medicine, suggested a way to eat them if you are so inclined: “Take and gut them, remove the wings and cover with honey, a good source for enriched protein (you have to eat the head, too) anyway, they are cheaper than $7.99 per pound center cut steak.”

And this is supposed to make me feel better?

As you might guess by now, cicadas are currently chief on my list of most-disliked insect invaders.

Granted, we were told for some time that the horde was coming during the month of May and to expect them. Broods by the millions were to emerge from the ground where they spent years waiting for their grand entrance.

So dramatic these nasty-looking creatures.

Entomology experts at the University of Missouri explain that it doesn’t take long for the nymphs to grow into giant brownish-black insects with six legs, large protruding red eyes, and transparent membranous wings.

A University of Missouri Extension report advises that the cicada nymphs attach themselves to trees, poles, and sides of houses with their claws. Then, according to Robert Barrett of the University of Missouri Department of Entomology, “The exoskeleton will split down the middle of the back and the adult will gradually pull itself free, leaving the cast skin attached to the substrate. The adults can live from five to six weeks.”

Incidentally, I haven’t mentioned their endless “singing” yet. Have you heard of the cicada love song, known to be the loudest song known in the insect world with some cicadas registering more than 100 decibels?

For me, this bothersome invasion of cicadas brings to mind what Ogden Nash once wrote about flies: “God in His wisdom made the fly. And then forgot to tell us why.”

I guess it could be worse though, such as an invasion of giant mosquitoes. Wasn’t it Andy Warhol who once said the mosquito was the state bird of New Jersey.

It is indeed positively buggy out there.

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson