The War of Summer’s End

With autumn leaves turning, cool morning breezes, and the smell of smoldering tobacco barns in the air, summer is but a memory. However, summer leaves a lasting impression on me because towards the end, I find myself in a warzone.

Summer used to be my favorite month. As a kid, I loved swimming, I loved that school was out and I loved that my birthday was in summer. As I am older, I love the heat of summer. Taking a break from the cool temperature my husband likes the house, heading outside for some sunshine on my face and heat to warm my bones. I looked forward to August when students went back to school and I had the pool or the park to myself – August became less busy when I was out and about. I also celebrate my birthday and all of this made August my favorite month of the year.

But when I moved to the river bottoms of Calloway County, where the soil is moist and perfect for farming, I no longer favored the end of summer. You see, there is an enemy here in the wetlands that I never crossed paths with before.

An enemy who took my favorite month and caused me to go into hiding. No longer do I go outside to feel the sun on my face, or to walk in the park, or take a long hike of solitude while kids are back in school. Because my enemy is out there lurking about, ready to attack.

For eight long weeks – all of August and part of September, I dread going outside. When August arrives, and I have to take my puppies out to potty, or the greyhounds out for a walk, I search the sky to see if my enemy is close by.

But I have learned I do not have to look for him (or her in this case) because I will hear the loud vibrating sound circling my head. The moment I hear that sound, sends me into a panic as I run for cover. And then I remember, “Don’t run…”

My enemy is thirsty… for BLOOD. No matter how fast I have walked, no matter how much I try to dodge the attacks, every year she torments me, seeking to have my blood.

The injuries I have suffered left me with welts swelling on my skin where she drained blood from whatever area she could zone in on her sneak attacks.

The first time she came for me, I thought I had stepped on a nest of swarming bees and made them angry. I heard buzzing all around my head and nearly cricked my neck trying to swish my pony tail to swat at whatever was coming after me. I tried to outrun these Kamikazes, but their attacks were relentless! There were hundreds of them!

When I got home from my harrowing walk, I searched the internet to find out what was out there. And there it was, an enlarged picture of my terrifying enemy, and I could clearly see her weapon. Her long, saw-tooth drill-of-a-mouth that pierces her prey as she feeds on their blood. The dreaded horsefly.

I had been around horses all my life and I only saw an occasional one fly by and land on a horse – never attacking ME. But now I was behind enemy lines, in their strike zone, in the moist area where they breed. As I read more about them, I was more afraid for my horses up the road at our ranch, than I was for me. If we lived in an area where they were attracted to, how could I protect my horses? And, since I wasn’t a horse, why did they attack me?

I read on, and found that running from them is futile. This enemy zeros in on a running target. Their eyes are thermogenic and they see heat. They also are attracted to dark colors. And… it was suggested that they and other blood thirsty insects prefer certain blood types in humans – O+ … my blood type.

My husband can come and go and it is only a nuisance to him, when mosquitos or horse flies are out. But for me, I have to suit up with long sleeves in the hot summer, or an organic repellant on my skin.

I have learned when my now least favorite month arrives, I need to dress in light colors, walk slowly, and not stay out long to get hot. But, that really doesn’t help me much, as the female horsefly searching for hosts to sink her drill into for her survival and breeding, always seems ready to attack me anyway.

And this summer’s end, I believe they were even more rampant and had even made mention on the news.

When I stand at the door while my puppies go potty (and the flies never bother them) I am constantly grabbing the back of my shirt at the neck and giving it a shake, pulling it away from my skin so nothing can land on me in a surprise attack.

I also give my derriere a sweep with my hands, making sure nothing is trying to zero in on that target. Luckily we don’t have neighbors who live close enough to see my neurotic dance. You’ve heard of the Rain Dance, well, I invented the Horsefly Dance. You shake your shirt, you sweep your bum – oh, and you swish your pony tail every time they dive-bomb your head.

All of August, I stand in the warzone of my sworn enemies as they prepare for attack. One day when I walked the greyhounds down the long road by the cornfields, it didn’t take long for my body to heat up in the hot summer day and the enemy to start circling their target.

In my mind I saw the battle, as the horrid sound of their engine zoomed by my head. Sometimes I can’t even get a swish of my pony tail going before another one skyrockets by. They seem to be working together.

While one drained his ammo canister, another kicked in his afterburners and peeled off in an instant dive. They were attacking from all directions. Their planned skirmishes left no time to plan my own.

Just as I thought they were leaving the strike zone, they banked, added power, and came at me again turning in tight formation. My swishing ponytail and shirt shaking only distracted them for a second while the aviators pulled back on the stick, climbed and made a second pass.

Yee-ouch! Fifth welt of the season.

Spec and Sweetie finally did their business and we walked fast to head for cover. While the wingman broke off and did a loop, another pilot peeled off in an instant dive. I just kept on dancing, swishing, and flapping my shirt all the way back home hoping another band of brothers would not meet their target. They all seem to like the sweet spot. A bigger target, plump and usually wearing denim.

During a very hot, steamy day, I try to avoid battle and being outdoors for very long. As the summer’s end moves into fall, I am finally relieved of the dance. The buzzers die off and it is easier to fight off one or two than the fifty at one time.

And finally, the war is over. The battle zone fades, the smoke clears, and the sky is blue again and with a comforting breeze. Oh how I welcome fall! And even winter. In fact, I am praying for a winter so cold, that it freezes the offspring of my sworn enemy so that next summer I will win the battle.

jenjeffreybillington@gmail.com

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