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Everything is different

Everything seems different, doesn't it? At first I was thinking about the weather, but that's not the only thing that seems different. Maybe it's because none of us are getting any younger, which means we're getting older, which means we see winters, summers, springs, lots of things, with eyes that are different. Smarter, one would hope. But where was hope when we were snowed on in April? Yeah, right.

But doesn't it seem like nothing is like it used to be? Politics. Sports. Cars. Insurance. Bills. Television. Computers. You name it. At any age, you can blame age, especially for some of us when the numbers are adding up big time—disclaimer, I'm older than I ever thought I'd be. As is said: If I'd known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.

Maybe lots of things have changed, but one thing for certain, it's hotter than it used to be. People say climate change is not happening? There was a time when air conditioning seemed totally irrelevant, totally not necessary. No more. When I started in the plumbing and heating and refrigeration business, you couldn't give central air away, but now? It's a big deal.

The springs we've been having seem to be later than they used to be, and meaner. This spring will be remembered as the Spring of Mud. What a mess. The last one I remember was in any way like this one we just went through was maybe thirty years ago. I remember that one, because I had a vehicle or tractor stuck on every direction of the compass rose. Tried to leave north, west, east, and south. Stuck. Frost boils the size of houses, drag you right in.

This spring seems to have brought more tent caterpillars than I've ever seen. You know what they are, they build those innocent little white nests in trees related to cherry, and next thing you know, they're the size of women's purses and filled with hairy little worms that will strip the tree bare.

If there aren't any cherry cousins around, they move to plums, and then to MY APPLE TREES! There are several kinds of things they can eat, but they really like fruit trees. I've been searching them out now for a couple of weeks, and I'm still finding them. More than I've ever seen. They're just, well, mean.

We had them growing up on the farm in Iowa, too, and I remember ma wrapping an oil soaked rag on a long stick, lighting it, and reaching the stick up into the trees to toast caterpillar nests into fiery destruction. We little kids watched and knew right away that we couldn't wait to be a grown up so we could run around the farm with what appeared to be the greatest incendiary device imaginable. Grownups could do all the cool stuff, was my conclusion at the time.

The problem with going after a tent caterpillar nest with a flame thrower is that if it's an apple tree that you paid sixty bucks for, you'd kind of like to protect your investment. Setting apple trees on fire seems counterproductive, kind of.

So I run around the farm here with a can of spray Raid, which seems to be pretty effective, especially if you tear the cocoon open a bit and give it to'em right in their house. Mostly it works, but if some of them are out shopping for lunch in the tree, they can come back and multiply. That's where spraying them may come up short.

I dragged a big spun-cotton tent of them out of an apple tree by cutting off the entire branch. Then I saw our chickens running around the yard, and I know they'll eat about every insect they find, so I brought this white, caterpillar-spun structure crawling with the little buggers over to the chickens, thinking maybe here was a new disposal method. That they'd eat them.

Uh, uh. They immediately eyed them with suspicion on their faces. (I know. How can a chicken face look suspicious.) They wouldn't even try one. Now, with a brain the approximate size of a pencil eraser, how'd they know they didn't taste good? I picked one off and threw it at them. They backed up. Went off in search of a tasty angle worm, or maybe some garbage.

I dragged the branch of creepy crawlers onto the gravel driveway and gave them what-for with a can of Raid. Yeah, baby. That's what you get for tasting my apple trees.

Everything seems different this year.

(Fifty years ago today, I left Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, driving a deuce-and-a-half truck as part of an army convoy headed for Green River, Utah. There, we would live in tents in the summer desert and train German troops to launch Pershing missiles, which we aimed more or less in the direction of Mexico. We broiled in the daytime and froze at night. The army still couldn't send me to Vietnam, because my brother was there).

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