Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Ant Farm Incident

It was during the summer of 1989 when my stepson Steven first took an interest in ant farming. Ah yes, that innocent August when hot days were as long as licorice ropes, and a six-year-old's dreams were limited only by the curb at each end of the block.

When I heard the news I remembered how I once asked for an ant farm too. I guess I didn’t play my cards right though because I ended up with a neurotic hand-me-down squirrel instead; a squirrel that bit me all summer long, and hibernated during the winter. Lousy gatherer, that’s all he was. He couldn’t farm a lick. Well I wasn’t about to let this kid’s dream be crushed like mine was, so we sat down... you know, man to man like, and we had a little chat.

“So" I said "ya want to be an ant farmer eh?”
“Umm... yes.”
“It’s a big responsibility ya know.”
“Umm... it’s only four dollars.”
“Sea Monkey’s were only four dollars, but do you remember what the food cost?”
“But ants eat crumbs, and junk.”

Well, that was good enough for me. The Acme Deluxe Ponderosa Ant Farm arrived in the mail three weeks later.

“The ant farm’s here!” I announced.
“The what?” said Steven.
“The ant farm we wanted, I mean you wanted… it came today.”
“Can I watch TV?”
“Don’t you want to put your farm together?”
“Are there ants?”
“They should be in the box. Let’s open it up.”

We spilled the contents of the Acme Deluxe Ponderosa Ant Farm out on the table and took a quick inventory. Green plastic parts, clear plastic parts, bag of sand, tube of live ants, and one instruction manual/accessories order form.

“Well it looks like it’s all here,” I said.
“Can I take the ants out?”
“No, no wait. We have to set up the farm first.”

I've never followed the directions to assemble anything in my life, and I have a drawer full of spare parts to prove it, but I thought this would be the perfect time to set a good step-fatherly example and do this thing by the book.

STEP 1. Assemble the base. See fig. 1

“Can I take the ants out?” Steven repeated.
“Hang on, I’m reading the instructions. Here, snap these two pieces together.”

Before getting to STEP 2. I spied a note on the side of the instruction sheet that said “HINT: Placing ants in freezer before introduction to ant farm will calm ants for easier transfer.”

“Hey, Steven it says here we should put the ants in the freezer.”
“Won’t that hurt ‘em?”
“No, no, it’ll just slow ‘em down a bit so they don’t escape when you put ‘em in the farm.”

So into the freezer went the crew of Ant Station Zebra... Future inhabitants of the Ponderosa Dunes Agricultural Community.

STEP 2. Snap feet to base. See fig. 2... and so on it went as we reviewed each instruction carefully, ate some dinner, and talked about farming... ant farming, and farming in general. Eventually it was time to pour in the sand, so in it went. Well mostly in, a little out.

“We can sweep that up later," I said, "Look, we’re almost done!”
“But where are the tunnels?”
“Oh that’s the fun part. You get to watch the ants dig the tunnels.”

STEP 9. Assemble ant farm lid. See fig. 9

“Snap, click," and the farm was ready
"Can I take the ants out now?” Steven asked.
“Sure, go get ‘em. It’s time to start farmin’."

STEP 10. To calm ants for easy transfer into their new environment place ant vial in freezer for 2 minutes. IMPORTANT: Do not leave ants in freezer longer than 5 minutes!

“Wholly shit!!” I let slip.
“Oh nothing… Hurry up, get the ants!”

The ants poured into their new home like a teaspoon of Rice Krispies.

“When are they gonna start digging?” the new farm boss asked.
“Well they need to thaw out first” I said, wondering where I could find a replacement ant colony at this hour.

We watched, and we waited. Then we watched, and waited a little longer. It was like waiting for that first kernel of popcorn to pop, except in this case there would be no second or third, let alone any forth or fifth kernels popping. Five minutes passed, and then... very un-suddenly there was movement in the pile. A lone limping ant emerged from the heap of assorted legs, antennae, and thoraxes. It looked like it had just climbed Mt. Everest barefoot with no oxygen. In other words it was very calm. Slowly it ambled half way across the Ponderosa before stopping to rest.

“What about the rest of ‘em?” Steven inquired.
“I think we got a bad batch.”

The next hour confirmed that yes, we did indeed get a bad batch.

"Well, it's gettin' late," I said.
"They're dead huh?"
"Yeah, but maybe we can find some more outside tomorrow.”
“Yeah, maybe.”

And so we placed the ant farm up on the dresser...
right next to the dried up Sea Monkey aquarium.

“Good night.” I told Steven
“Good night.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Curmudgeon’s Holiday Poem

My knees are feeling older
And the toilet seat is colder
But there’s paper in the holder
So I guess it could be worse

Oh the joys of late November
With a turkey to dismember
These are times I will remember
Future stuff to tell my nurse

We all gather at the table
And give thanks that we are able
To watch football on the cable
So we don’t have to converse

Now the Firewood needs chopping
But we’re going Christmas shopping
And the mall is really hopping
No, I will not hold your purse!

In a beard too tightly fitting
Poor ol’ Santa’s head is splitting
On his lap the kids are sitting
Kringle looks a little terse

Little drummer boys are drumming
And the Christmas cards are coming
Now we have some frozen plumbing
This is when I start to curse

Oh the joys of mid December
With a faucet to dismember
These are times I will remember
I feel sorry for that nurse

Oh they say they are delighted
To their party I’m invited
Such delight is unrequited
In their wine glass I immerse

Oh the joys of January
I don’t mean to sound contrary
I’ll say “have a very merry…
Holiday” and I’ll disperse

Yes that was the final verse