LOCAL VIEW –Black Fly Blues–

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Outside the blue sky’s gorgeous
But I’m not going out of doors today.
Outside the sun is golden
But inside is the place I’m going to stay.
I’ll be a couch potato
Until the biting black flies go away.

I’ve heard God’s love’s in everything,
Even in that pesky little fly.
I found the thought impossible,
So I grabbed one, and I looked him in the eye.
He whined, “Hey man! I love you!”
He’d made a point no woodsman can deny.

They love me head down to my toes;
They even love the inside of my nose.
They also love my armpits
(And not too many folk are fond of those.)
They’re part of Love’s creation
Sort of like the thorns upon a rose.

See that flycatcher winging?
He loves black fly. Black fly he’s glad to see.
Hear that songbird singing?
Black fly fuels his springtime rhapsody.
Feel that itch and stinging?
You are part of Love’s ecology.

Outside the blue sky’s gorgeous.
I can’t be cooped up inside any more.
Outside the sun is gorgeous.
I find I’m walking slowly to the door.
Spring is here and it is clear
Love’s inviting me to come explore.

I wrote that song back in May, 1990. It was one of the last songs I wrote as a bachelor, though I didn’t really have a clue what lay 45 days in my future. I had just chanced into a small town church choir, and found myself mingling with young married couples with small children, and they wanted me to sing at a church picnic in June. It was sort of a graduation party for the Sunday School. For me it was great fun, for I’d been through over a decade as a drifter and a loner, and now all of a sudden I had not only a guitarist and bass to back up my vocals, but the young housewives insisted on being accompanying dancers as I sang, and choreographed a thing where all held fly-swatters and waved them like batons as I sang. I doubt it would have been a hit on Broadway, but we weren’t aiming for that. We hit the bulls eye of what we aimed for, which was joy and a good laugh.

To make joy out of black flies is a major achievement. In fact it is something I think might be good to be remembered for. It would make an intriguing tombstone, “He made joy out of black flies.”

However here it is 27 years later, and I’m dealing with a whole new generation of children and black flies. One way I create a safe-house out of doors is to use the old-fashioned idea of a “smudge.” You basically build a hot fire, and then smother it with wet leaves and twigs.

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Black flies don’t like smoke. They don’t even like the exhaust of a lawn mower or leaf-blower, but back in the day I was prone to using un-powered hand tools, and therefore during the spring I was a chain-smoker. I’d say I only inhaled a puff or two of each cigarette, but they were much cheaper back then, and I’d go through 3 packs a day quite often.

Of course, the politics of smoke have gotten rougher. The EPA was doing its best to outlaw smoke altogether, (though they did get caught fudging some of their data, concerning the harm of “particulates.)”

When I was a small child I didn’t use the word “particulates”, but, believe it or not, one of the small girls at the Childcare furrowed her brow, as I built my smudge, and asked me if I was worried about the “particulates”.

What could I say? I just tugged my beard thoughtfully, and said man started using fire a long, long time ago. Neanderthals used fire. Even Homo Erectus used fire, perhaps as much as 1,500,000 years ago. If it was bad for us, it would have killed us by now. In fact, we probably evolved to handle smoke better than laboratory rats do.  So I told her she shouldn’t worry too much about “particulates.” There was probably more bad stuff in indoor air, than by a campfire.

The girl seemed immensely relieved, and ran off to happily play. But it did make me wonder what some environmentalists think they are teaching our children, when they cause the young such worry, and so many bad dreams. Actually the outside is a lovely place, even when the black flies are out.

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2 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW –Black Fly Blues–

  1. I remember living in Maine. You could stand out on a warm day with 3 foot snow banks all around you and be bothered by mosquitos if it was warm enough. Then, finally, came spring and you could finally, really go outside and all you had to wear were long pants and a flannel shirt! And there were those mosquitos making sure you didn’t enjoy it too much. And as soon as the brooks started running again – ice had melted out – there were those black flies.

    And I can remember, in the beginning, when I was a child, black flies were just a “season” of a few weeks, but as the clean water act took hold, and the streams and rivers were being cleaned up, black fly season ended up all summer long, and your choice was don’t enjoy the outdoors, or smother yourself in Old Woodsmen or some similar insect repellent.

    Yes, they are enough to drive you indoors – those along with the midges, the “no-see-ums,” the horse flies, the deer flies, the moose flies, all taking their different sized chunks out of your hide. But the black flies down the back of the shirt, inside the collar, up the sleeves and pant legs, crawling through your hair to bite you, while the males flew around and around in your face so you didn’t notice the evil little females going after their “pound of flesh!”

    It does take someone very special to find something to enjoy about the little buggers!

  2. Excellent comment from one who has been there, but you forgot the vicious green-eyed flies, chomping you at a beach, when you thought you had escaped all the others.

    “Old Woodsman” worked, but only for around 15 minutes. Then I think the pungent Pennyroyal evaporated away whatever insects disliked, though the smell remained. If you dosed yourself every 15 minutes you utterly reeked by the end of the day. Also Pennyroyal may have some negative side effects, (especially for women). I tended to drench my clothing but not my skin.

    The same goes for DEET. The stuff does work, but Lord only knows what side effects it might have.

    The old timers just would grin and bear it, claiming they developed an “immunity.” I’ve heard plenty of tales of fellows heading up to fish in Canada, and noticing the guide wasn’t troubled as they got swarmed, and I’ve also noticed that I don’t seem as bothered as fellows fresh from the city. So perhaps the body does have some sort of defense mechanism that exudes a repellent in our sweat and oils.

    Most of the local repellents do involve oils. Of course, then dust sticks to you. Therefore, though my wife doesn’t approve, I tend to go for the natural oils my body produces, and to shower as little as I can get away with. There is little doubt black flies swarm you worst when you are squeaky clean from a shower.

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