There are so many laments about the bugs in the Ozarks that if they were compiled into a book it would never end. How do you even begin to tell outsiders about the insects that inhabit our Oz? If you’ve got a vicious sense of humor, you could just let them wade into the chest-deep grass and work it out later – they’re not going to believe you anyway. If I told a person unfamiliar with these parts that the insects in the Ozarks would carry off their children if they didn’t keep them tied down, do you think they’d believe me? I suspect not, but every Ozarker who reads this knows it’s the truth.
It’s a good thing that Ozarkers have a good sense of humor when it comes to weather and bugs. If we didn’t laugh about these things we would probably go insane while scratching ourselves unmercifully – and sometimes shamelessly – from May until November.
Yesterday I decide to walk down the long drive to see if any new plants had popped up in the meadow, but what popped up at me were not plants, but grasshoppers – lots of grasshoppers! They seem to be everywhere all at once. With every step, they hurled themselves wildly in all directions, each making an audible snap that gives one the slightly disconcerting feeling of walking in a living pot of green popcorn.
Keeping in tune with my attempt to find a place in the world for all things, I’ve been trying to keep my Ozark sense of humor about this year’s heat, drought and bugs. To do this, I turned to Ozark legend Vance Randolph. In his book, We Always Lie to Strangers, Mr. Randolph tells his version of the grasshopper plagues of the 1800’s.
“Another man, who must be nameless here, swears that some of the hoppers were ten inches through the thorax and had big front teeth like beavers. They all chewed tobacco and spit on the sidewalks, while some of them could whistle Marching Through Georgia through their teeth. “Every time we killed one of the critters”, a farmer said,“two more come to bury him.”
Well, thank goodness none of my grasshoppers have learned to whistle.
But wait, it seems as if this isn’t the first time Ozarkers have had to deal with plagues of grasshoppers. Again, Randolph tells a story of how some big city slickers found an organic way for Ozarkers to deal with pesky hoppers:
“…old-timers allege that Professor C.V. Riley, state entomologist of Missouri, seriously advised the farmers to use grasshoppers for food. “Pull off their legs and wings and fry ‘em in deep grease,” said he. The hillfolk in southern Missouri were mighty indignant about this. “We’re payin’ that feller a big salary,” shouted a local politician, “to show us how to combat these here insects that’s a devourin’ our crops. An’ what does he tell us? Why, to go out an’ eat grasshoppers! Well, we may come to it, at that, if we get hungry enough. But we sure don’t need a high-collared bug-hunter to rub our noses in it!”
So, while were dealin’ with the critters and a-waitin’ for the rain to come and drench our souls, don’t forget to keep it funny! It may not save your crops, but it at least you’ll be laughing.
Excerpted from A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country, eBook on sale now in the Show Me Oz Bookstore!
Excerpted from, A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozark High Country. You can find this book and many others available in print and eBook in the
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