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When I was a child, I lived in a small village. All the houses were alike except some were three rooms, some four, and some five. Small and very small homes. Large and very large families. There were two or three homes without children, but for the most part, there were more children than you could shake a stick at. One lady bore seventeen children, and would you believe, there was only one girl in the whole lot.
Seems there were children everywhere. Every one of the hundred or so houses had two huge oak trees in the front yard. After school and during summer, you would always find several groups of children playing under, and sometimes in, those trees.
These children actually knew each other. They knew each other in a way you're not likely to find in any developed country today. There were no televisions, video games, cell phones and mp3 players to distract one child's attention to another. Actually, there was very little for a child to do back then except play together, that and chores around the house, such as bringing in firewood for the cook stove. They were a close knit group and they actually knew each other.
Those big old oak trees shed an abundance of acorns each Fall. There were so many acorns on the ground, it was pretty much yellow. The feet of all those children at play squashed millions of acorns, smashing and exposing the rich buttery yellow meat inside.
Blue Jays were abundant as well. They flocked to the oak trees, relishing and getting fattened up on a seemingly never ending supply of their favorite food. The congregations were huge, and their shrill calls resounded over and over throughout the village. It just wouldn't be Fall without a crispness in the air, the smell of smoke from chimneys where wood was burned in a fireplace, and the sound of Blue Jays in the oak trees.
Several years ago, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard a Blue Jay in a long time. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I had not heard a Blue Jay since I was a child. Yes, it was a long time, a very long time.
Things have their cycles, I guess. Even Devil's snuff. I'm outside every day. I see a lot of ground. There are lots of mushrooms about. But where are those big globes that use to pop up on the ground overnight? The same big balls filled with brown powder, the same big balls we called Devil's snuff (puff balls). The ones we as children found delight in kicking and watching a huge cloud of devil's snuff rise up and be carried by the wind to which ever way it was going. I haven't seen Devil's snuff in years.
I knew something was missing this year. Couldn't quite put my finger on it. Late one recent evening, I thought I saw my first firefly of the year. Then it dawned on me. Fireflies should have come and gone by now. For seventy-two seasons, I've seen fireflies. This year I saw none. Not one. Did any of you go without seeing a lightning bug this year? Maybe they have cycles, too.
Our village was in the city, but all the folks were country at heart. To be sure, most were fresh from the country, having come 'to town' to get a factory job. They were in hopes a job at a mill would be easier than the grueling task of walking behind a mule and plow from sun up til sun down.
And being countrified as they were, they had their own country way of talking. A lot were without more than two or three years of schooling and they had their own, sometimes made up, words for various things about them. The Katydid is a good example.
Wiki tells us a Katydid is a grasshopper. Well, you could have fooled me and everyone I knew as a child. We called a grasshopper a grasshopper. And as we had never heard the word 'Cicada', we called cicadas, 'Katydids'.
People, let me tell you. When I as a child, there were multitudes of 'katydids' every year. And could they ever make a racket! A chorus of these loud boys could give a gang of screeching jays a run for their money any day. Just as sure as late summer, late evening, the Katydids serenaded their mates for hours on end.
I haven't heard katydids in years. I haven't even seen their empty shells decorating tree bark, here and there and everywhere. Strange. There doesn't seem to be the old reliable order to things, anymore. Any old timer from my childhood village would have this to say, 'It's a sign of the times. That's what it is, son, a sign of the times'.
Well, a Katydid paid me a visit today. I don't know about 'signs', but if there be such things, I'll take its visit as a sign that the order of this spaceship we call Earth is not coming to a screeching halt any time soon. Things are pretty much as they should be, just running in cycles, that's all.
And you know what? I think Mr Katydid was as glad to see me as I was him. He just couldn't be still. He tried his dangdest to crawl into my camera lens. I kept pulling him back and he kept crawling forward to the camera. After about thirty tries to get his picture, I took matters and his wings into hand. I held him still while I got one decent shot and then released him.
Can Katydids be comforting to people? I think 'yes'. Somehow, I feel just a little bit better since being paid a visit by this one. I'm reassured the little rascals are still around. I'm cautioned not to take things for granted. The good, the bad, and all in between comes in cycles. Mr Katydid was right on time!
I'm sure I will see Devil's snuff, again. And I have heard a couple of Blue Jays this year. And I think it unlikely I'll go two years without seeing a firefly.
Everything's OK. Just running in cycles, that's all.
Great essay, Doug. I remember seeing garter snakes and frogs all the time when I was a kid and I rarely see them now. Lots of blue jays, dragonflies and squirrels. I have never seen a cicada or a firefly, living most of my life in Western Washington and Oregon.
By the way, I did a little research about cicadas and katydids. They are not grasshoppers or locusts either, they look like leaves and are often called leaf bugs. I think they all sound similar when singing in the evening, which is why they get confused so easily.
Fantastic, sir. As I was reading this, I was imagining myself reading your ThriftyFun essays to my little niece. I think she'd get a kick out of them, too.
My Brother Has Grown Up To Be Quite The Yarn Spinner,And I Like IT Thanks.
Growing up on a farm in southeastern Colorado, the cicadas were thick! And so loud you could barely hear someone talking to you! And you just try to fall asleep at night!!