The muddy brown water of the Flint River lapped silently against the shore as I took a seat in the damp sand. Recent rains had caused the water to be slightly higher than usual, and farther out into the middle of the river water raced by in the strong current. Thanks to the weather, it was getting dark, and quickly. The approaching storm brought with it high winds and flecks of rain. Occasionally, a strong gust would roll through, sending the long arcing branches of the nearby Live Oaks into violent sways. Bits and pieces of leaves and branches silently found their way into the muddy waters and were quickly swept away by the current.
”We’ve got about 10 minutes I suppose”, I quietly muttered to Iceman. “Then shit’s probably gonna hit the fan”.
He nodded in agreement as I quickly tossed my chicken gizzard baited hand line into the river. Maybe some unfortunate catfish would stumble across my bait before the storm hit.
But time passed and nothing touched either of our baits. The storm was practically on top of us now, and the not-so-distant crack of thunder told us it was time to leave. No catfish is worth getting nearly struck by lightning…again.
This is my job. Well…part of it. Sorta.
It’s more like a perk.
My writing has taken an obvious hit recently because I’ve been…well…working my ass off. The rare occasions that I have off, I don’t find myself behind the computer typing away. Rather, I try to get out and fish as to actually GIVE myself something to write about.
I’m currently working for an ecological monitoring company and am focused on small mammal trapping. And by small mammals, I mean these guys…
Mice and rats. Lots and lots of mice and rats. And given my luck, that immediately translates into lots and lots of mouse and rat bites.
We take various samples from the poor little guys including hair, whiskers, ear punches, blood, and yes…even doo-doo. I simply cannot express how much fun it is to fish a nasty rat turd from a metal trap. I’m pretty sure it takes all five years of my college experience.
Joking aside, I actually enjoy my current job. I find myself outside plenty and of all the things in the world I –could- be doing outside for my job, I feel pretty blessed to be doing something I enjoy. I have, however, recently discovered something I despise: Insects. And no, it’s not your average, every day biting insects. I’m talking about gnats.
Yep. Just your ordinary, non-biting, stupid little gnat. Now, I’m no stranger to swarms of gnats. I did, after all, work on quail plantations for a couple of years where the gnat swarms were absurd. There’s really nothing you can do to keep them from flying into your ears, eyes, nose, or mouth. You kinda just have to suck it up and deal with it. And deal with it I did just as I’ve always done…
At least until I’d gone 6 solid days of constant gnat bombardment. Try to work up a mouse? Gnat in the ears tickling the hell out of you. Need to write something down? Instant gnat in the eye; You’re not seeing the data sheet. Need to say something? Well you’re gonna eat fifteen of them while your mouth is open.
They were incessant, and after 6 days of trapping, they’d broken me. Resistance was futile. Even though I attempted to slap my face from time to time, sending hundreds of gnats to their death, my face would be immediately enveloped by the next legion of eye poking, ear tickling demons.
I soon developed a twitch and an acute form of tourettes. Every so often I’d break into a series of bizarre spasms and terrifying cuss-filled shrieks as I involuntarily resisted the swarm that was determined to bother me to no end.
|Slayed gnats from my face that fell onto the data sheet|
It was an ugly scene, and by the sixth day I noticed I was not alone. Our entire team was broken. Tensions ran high as everyone felt the unrelenting onslaught of the gnat. Work was next to impossible and even with a dedicated “fanner” for the person working up a rodent, the gnats eventually broke through and sent someone into a fit of rage.
Back on the damp shore of the Flint River, I watched the night sky as the passed storm lit up the heavens. Lightning filled the sky, outlining the dark squall line and the far shore of the river with every strike. But a cool, refreshing breeze occasionally wound its way down the twists and bends of the river to meet us, and a subtle yet obvious tug on my line told me a fish had found my chicken gizzard.
“I think I’ve…ACK!” I was quickly interrupted midsentence by a fit of coughing. My eyes watered as I struggled to catch my breath.
“You alright?” asked Iceman.
I tugged on my line to discover it was hung on some submerged rock and turned to look at him through watery eyes.
“Yeah…I just inhaled a gnat”.