When I was little, probably five or six, and we were still living in Boulder Creek, I had a jungle gym. Oh I’m pretty sure MILK got to use it too, but since I’m the oldest I’m calling it mine. It was a simple affair, made out of wood if memory serves and installed on top of a base layer of bark mulch to cushion the inevitable falls. There were monkey bars and a swing, I don’t remember if there was a slide. The one feature that made it truly unique from other jungle gyms was the Yellow Jacket nest in the bark mulch.
If you live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, you live with small wasps called Yellow Jackets; they will eat damn near anything and are pushy little bastards to boot. Many a picnic goer has dueled with them over a piece of chicken or fruit. Unlike most bees or wasps, Yellow Jackets will occasionally make underground nests in old mouse burrows etc, so you can add “sneaky little bastards” to the Wikipedia page any time now. Basically they are the land mines of the North American insect kingdom. To make them even more adorable, the little darlings bite hard in addition to stinging which, unlike a bee, they can do over and over without dying, or even breaking a sweat. They also have the nasty habit of climbing inside a can of soda so you take a sip of corn syrup and angry wasp.
So there was I was, a happy five year old swinging away in the safety of my own back yard when I jumped off the swings and invented the worst possible way to discover a wasp nest.
I land right on top of the nest and immediately piss off the whole colony. Now there are many ways to deal with a swarm of wasps, most of them involve running around like your hair is on fire and jumping into the nearest body of water, or diving into a building or car. I go with the lesser known (and considerably less effective) freeze up and stand there screaming method.
I start screaming because they start stinging and my dad, who was in the house, looks out the window and sees Lil’ Whiskey standing in place shrieking for no apparent reason. The reason he couldn’t see a problem, was that I was standing on the opening to the nest. The Yellow Jackets were flying directly up my pants.
Dad runs outside like any responsible parent and picks up his screaming progeny. This immediately uncaps the nest hole. All buzzing swarming biting and stinging hell breaks loose in a cloud of demon fury. My dad, having more sense than a five year old, employs the time tested “run like your hair is on fire” method and actually manages to outrun the majority of the wasps by the third lap of the backyard, even with a wailing, thrashing kindergartener under his arm, and makes it into the house. I’m not sure he bothered to open the screen door. He drops me and scrambles around shutting all the windows and doors.
I’m still coming unglued in full seizure form and, after taking a few seconds to decipher my wails, dad rips off my pants and swats the dozen remaining North American Trouser Wasps. Thankfully, because it was the very early 80’s, I was wearing tight enough pants that none of the wasps made it far enough up my jeans to sting my tender bits. I think he gave me an Orange Creamsicle from his private stash in the way back of the freezer to make me feel better. And Tylenol. And Benadryl. And a little bourbon. Maybe the last bit was for him.
Later that day we bonded in one of the traditional mountain father and son ways. We poured kerosene down a mother f*ing wasp hole.