It’s been raining quite a bit here in Houston, Texas since New Year’s. I saw a tree that had a nice puddle formed around it and it suddenly took me back to Alaska.
In Alaska you have the summer, fall, winter, and breakup season. Breakup season is when all of the snow melts. It’s a magical time of year for weird little kids. The playgrounds would be flooded, water trapped in the concrete walkway surrounding the playground equipment. This, I soon learned, was a haven for water beetles. Glorious.
The other great part of breakup season was this field by the house where my family lived. It was a great neighborhood. We had a nice, big, rectangular field with houses on three sides and a road on the fourth side (and just a quarter to half mile walking along that road took you to my school). The four sides surrounding the field all had little inclines, so the field was a rectangular bowl of sorts. It didn’t really add anything, but somehow this seemed fitting. It separated this area as an area of play. Nerf fights, snowball fights, soccer games, tossing a football (not so much for me – I was terrible at it), forts, failed attempts at skiing, you name it – the field was good for everything.
Like any multi-purpose athletic field, the grass was especially torn up in the middle. During breakup season that became a decent sized puddle. When the puddle was bigger, it was used as a bug fishing ground. When the puddle was smaller, it was perfect for my toy dinosaurs. Magical, I tell ya.
Here’s where I may lose some of you.
In my kindergarten to second grade logic, this made sense. Beetles … gross, slimy, water beetles … loved grasshopper legs. Not just any ones – the big ones in the back of a grasshopper. And the best time of year to catch water beetles was breakup season (water, water, everywhere!).
Off my best friend Chris and I would go, merrily catching grasshoppers then ripping off their back legs. We were delicate, too. Because according to our knowledge (we really believed this to be true, but it may have been made up by me) – grasshoppers could re-grow their back legs. Naturally, then, you handled them with care. You would pick up the little grasshopper and DANG IT he pooped on me … gross … and anyway, then, see, you grab the back leg at the base (if you grab at the bottom it’ll rip at the knee and that’s no good), so you grab at the base and a gentle but fast tear and off the back leg goes. Switch to the other side and boom, two little pieces of bait.
You’d think the grasshopper would be a little upset by this, but we would set them down and off they’d walk. (In retrospect, I am evil, but at the time, the grasshoppers seemed to be walking away just fine so I thought this whole tearing off the legs business was just a temporary inconvenience for them.)
Anywho, it didn’t stop there. That wasn’t even the tough part. The tough part was tying that leg to a piece of string. A tiny little knot around that leg (I was in cub scouts for about 2 months, I never learned knots). Then you tie that string to a stick – and whala!, you’re ready to fish for beetles.
You’d think, based on the fact that no beetle every actually bit on one of our lures, that we would’ve figured out one of the many holes in our logic … but nope. Instead we’d fish with the grasshopper leg lure, eventually spot a beetle in the water, and then just try to catch him with our hands. (What was the COOLEST was when there was still a thin sheet of ice over the water, and you could see bugs swimming under it! Then you could do a sort of ice fishing – but usually the ice would just break into chunks and you’d scare the beetle off.)
If you’re out, and you see a little kid out with their little kid logic doing evil things, maybe point them in the right direction (you know, don’t torture stuff) but be sure to encourage them to be weird. (Tell them you don’t want to torture the bugs because they’ll eventually start to recognize you and form plans against you – a thought I had after I started to fear that bees were following me home. Seriously. I knew it seemed crazy so I didn’t tell anyone. But I DID stop catching bees to prove, in case there was a message, that I’d gotten the message.)