Back when I was 5-years-old, I was adventurous, a little … well, a lot more than I am now.
One day while playing outside, I stood in the Texas dirt waiting for friends. The dirt was the top of an ant hill. Before I realized what happened, my leg was covered in red ants, also known as fire ants.
For those who aren’t familiar with fire ants, these little ants are attackers. They swarm and bite anything that touches their hill. If you’re allergic to their bites, you’re in for a world of hurt.
Back then in Texas, my knee was so swollen my mom used her Girl Scouts skills and lanced my blistered wound herself. About 40 years later, I still have a scar going across my left knee from that attack.
Today, at the age of 43, I saw that scene in Texas flash before my eyes. And I’d revisit that scene again, even if it means bored kids and a slight sunburn.
Every year, the local fish hatchery — part of the national system since the early 1800s — hosts a kids fishing derby with the help of the Chowan-Edenton Optimist Club. The nonprofit does a lot of great stuff for our community, including host the annual Fourth of July celebration.
We arrived about an hour after the event started, and the ponds they were using for the fishing derby already were packed. The hatchery hosts fishing derbies as a way to prevent overpopulation in their stock ponds. They are also a way to teach the community about the fishery’s services and how to fish.
In the three derbies we have participated in, my family has learned:
- Fishing is boring when you’re impatient.
- Stocking up on snacks and sunscreen is a key to survival.
- Catching fish requires good bait. Fishery fish like shrimp over worms and chicken livers.
- Bringing your own gear is important, but knowing where extra gear is is vital. We lost four fish hooks today. Both of our fishing lines got tangles that made them inoperable. We have had to rely on the hatchery’s poles every year.
- Spreading kindness to other fisherpeople goes a long way. Sharing bait, extra fish, and tips is just a nice thing to do.
This year, we caught only catfish. That’s OK. We also got our lines stuck in a lot of weeds along the water’s edge. We also “crossed the streams,” tangling one kid’s line with another kid’s.
There were plenty of time of times where we all got on everyone else’s nerves.
If I have to fish your line out of the weeds one more time, I’ll ….
Stop eating all my snacks (insert every kid’s name here), or I’ll push you in the pond.
You call that a throw? You crossed my line ….
During the last attempt to get the line out of the weeds, I felt like I was slipping. So, I put my hand down on the ground. When I got up the embankment and looked at my hand, four little brown, reddish ants were on my hand. Fire ANTS!!
I brushed them off my arm using a cleaning wipe I had (yes, I use wipes to clean fish goo off my hands) and had my kids to an inspection of my back. We found a few more on my legs.
After I tried to fish more and saw how miserable everyone was, we decided to call it a day. My wounds were swelling and we had some fish that had to be filleted.
The organization sponsoring the event cooked lunch — grilled hot dogs with bags of chips and water.
Other than the initial pain, flashback and swelling, I’m OK. The kids ended up having a good time, through they acted like I dragged them through the desert.
And I’d do it again — sunburn, bug bites, complaining and all.
While some things aren’t fun at the time, they are often the things my kids remember the most. I often forget that, and get wrapped up in executing a plan. I sometimes get upset if the plan doesn’t unfold as perfectly as I envisioned.
Adventures like this one are best when you just go with the flow: Set up a plan that gets the ball rolling, but throw the plan out as soon as you get to your destination.