A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The day of the Locusts...

At the end of the summer, North Africa unfortunately tends to suffer from two unavoidable scourges of nature.

One is the flash floods that occur in late August afternoons. The sky goes depressingly black. Then thunder and lightning follow soon after and finally a torrential rain which lasts no more than ten to fifteen minutes causing incredible torrents of dirty waters laden with anything that had not stowed away or been nailed down from oranges and watermelons to broken chairs and tree trunks, sometimes even cars and people.

For young children this usually turns out to be a providential playground. They will usually give chase to anything that happens to hurtle past them from fruit to broken toys. When the waters have subsided, the sky reverts to a crystal clear blue and the sun soon dries the remainder of the rain leaving trails of sand and earth.

Damage due to this customary occurrence is generally minimal unlike the other unfortunate blight that is the plague of locusts.

Individually, crickets are quite shy and often provide a lot of fun for the budding biologist. If you manage to place one in your open hand and then let go of it, the insect will spring into the air pleasantly tickling your palm.

But this harmless creature turns into a devastatingly voracious machine when in company of several thousand relatives.

I was around seven years when I first witnessed this event on our farm.

A black cloud appeared on the horizon and began moving towards our crop of wheat.
An eerie noise accompanied its progress and when it reached the outer fields, the cloud scattered hungry locusts along the width of the ripe crop.

Many hopped from one plant to the next stripping it bare while others crawled along the dry ground gathering the fallen grains.
The horde of hungry insects progressed steadily across the fields like a slow moving shadow in the afternoon sun.

For us kids, this was an ideal time for an exciting competition.

We chased and grabbed the crickets before stuffing them into empty tins we had saved for the occasion. Anyone with a cotton shirt was very lucky as the crickets tended to stick to the fibres and were just plucked and stowed in their metal prison.

Within less than an hour the fields were stripped bare and the locusts soon made their way to another fruitful harvest.
While the adults moaned and groaned about the loss of their crop, we sat under the almond tree counting our own crop.

Once counted and the winner declared, the prisoners were released to rejoin the swarm high up in the sky in search of a tasty snack.


Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Excellent post, Cream.

Such a contrast, the horror and the joy.

While reading, I was filled with this sense of dread, I glanced outside my window at the trees, I can't bear to think, 'what if...'

Poor, poor Africa. Is there no way to control these locusts?

It is amazing the way children find joy in everything, isn't it?

5/11/05 5:04 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

And look at the way you've captured the glee in those eyes, in that smile!

5/11/05 5:05 PM  
Blogger cream said...

GG, thanks for the compliment.It means a lot cos it comes from an accomplished writer! I mean it!

No matter how dire a situation may be, children will always find way to rise above it and live their own dreams.
As for a cure, I think that scientists are still scratching their heads.
I may have "captured the glee" but one of the waitresses went: "Yuk, is he gonna eat it?"

5/11/05 6:30 PM  
Blogger Chill Daddy said...

Um, pardon me, Mr. Cream, sir? Yes, well, your readers were just wondering when you're going to post the winner of your caption contest. See, if it's me, I could really use the money right now to fly to Oregon and find some way to ruin DCver's vacation. I'm thinking of posing as a custom's agent and deporting him for suspected terrorist activity, and for that, I'll need cash baby!

Anyhow, sorry this post isn't locust-related. Oh wait, I do have locust input... uh... no I don't.

6/11/05 3:09 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Hi, CD
If you look at the bottom of that post you will find that your wife won the competition! It was really funny!
Mr. Cream? Wow, you have just made me at least 20 years older!

6/11/05 5:38 PM  
Blogger Shosh said...

good story. I would have been terrified-you know the e.e. cummings poem "rpophessagr"? It reminds me of that.

6/11/05 7:43 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Shosh, will have to look out for "rpop...."
A good laugh for us kids!

6/11/05 11:20 PM  
Blogger LDahl said...

We have a plague of one type of bug or another every year. Three years ago it was giant wood roaches (not the icky little brown house ones, but the huge outside ones) there were so many of them they were coming into the house and at night the garden walls would be black and moving. Last year it was lady bugs, this year it was praying mantises. It is like the insect Chinese zodiac.
Four years ago it was the year of the Rolly-Pollys.
The loss of crops isn't funny though. I've seen video of this happening in Africa.
I'm really enjoying your blog, stories, art, memories and recipe... Made me hungry though!!

7/11/05 2:59 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Val, I am glad you like my blog...I love yours too!
You have some funny bugs in your neck of the woods! Rolly Pollys?
Lady bugs? I bet they were the fiercest, eh?

7/11/05 9:08 AM  
Blogger LDahl said...

I've never thought about it much, but yes we do have very strange bugs.
Rolly Pollys are related to lobsters, they are grey and roll up in a ball if you scare them, so on a hard floor they will roll like marbles:)) And yes, the Lady Bugs were no Ladys, they weren't the nice little orange ones with black spots, they were the dark tan ones that bite! (Not often, but there were thousands of them)

14/11/05 9:36 PM  
Blogger cream said...

Ldahl, thanks for the info!
Oohh...Makes me shiver!

14/11/05 11:37 PM  

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