By day she is a faithful wife and loving mother of six. She is normally sweet-tempered, kind and hospitable, looking after our household affairs with skill and devotion. Eighteen grandchildren fondly call her Nanny.
However, as the sun begins to sink low on the horizon and dusk begins to gather, she dons her mask and cape and turns into Fire Ant Killer! What Don Diego de la Vega was to Zorro and Britt Reid was to the Green Hornet, my sweet, loving spouse is to this little-known superhero. This tenderhearted, sympathetic female becomes a paragon of raging fury and vengeance upon the insect world.
Our yard is surrounded by pasture, and so we stand virtually no chance of keeping the fire ants under control, at least not without considerable expense and trouble. Fighting them is an ongoing battle, one that Fire Ant Killer wages with inflexible zeal and merciless purpose.
Whenever I see a mound in the yard, I poke a stick into the ground beside it to make it easier to find. However, I normally leave to her the joy of sprinkling the powder upon the ant hill. Whenever she begins her rounds, usually toward the end of the day, I try to stay completely out of her way. I am afraid she will be so focused upon entomological mayhem that she will momentarily forget herself and sprinkle the poison on me.
I could be wrong, but I would almost swear that I have seen smoke billowing from her nostrils and her eyes flashing with electricity while she searches the ground for those vile creatures. It is a fearsome sight to behold, one that certainly strikes fear into the heart of a poor, defenseless husband.
On those occasions when I do help her, I generally give the yard “a lick and a promise,” knowing that if I miss a mound now, we will find it later. Besides, it is inevitably an ongoing process that will occupy us all summer.
Fire Ant Killer, on the other hand, locks in her range finder and makes her way back and forth, back and forth, covering every square inch of the yard, muttering terrifying threats as she goes. A cat watching a mouse hole or a beagle on the trail never had more intense concentration.
She was not always thus. Once upon a time she was mentally stable and dependable. But then a fire ant stung one of her grandchildren – and something snapped in her mind. That violent motherly instinct rose up to such an extent that occasionally her reason deserts her and retribution becomes her only thought.
I am not sure what triggers these outbreaks. There is an old vaudeville gag used by The Three Stooges and by Lucille Ball in which a man whose wife deserted him goes temporarily insane at the mention of Niagara Falls, so maybe there is something that I say that causes it. I wish I knew, because I certainly would avoid it.
Certain cultures have terms for when a person becomes consumed with the lust for battle. In Southeast Asia it is “running amok.” Among the old Norsemen, those who went into a trance-like fury were called “berserkers.” Fire Ant Killer’s lineage is from among those Germanic tribes of northern Europe, so perhaps she is a descendant of Beowulf, who defeated the monster Grendel with his bare hands. Who knows?
I hope those of you who live on the northeastern edge of Booneville will be charitable with me as I try to manage this lamentable mental aberration in my dear wife. If on long summer evenings you should hear wild, maniacal laughter reverberating out across the Petit Jean River Valley, think upon me kindly. Just realize that Fire Ant Killer is on the loose again – and then run for the hills.