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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!”
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.
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.
The ants poured into their new home like a teaspoon of Rice Krispies.
“When are they gonna start digging?” the new farm boss asked.
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.
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.”
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