I spent part of my youth in West Texas. The background music of those years was normally Fleetwood Mac, but in the summer we set our activities to the sound of the cicada. Sitting in the backyard on dark, warm summer nights, the noise would drown out conversations. But it also lulled me to sleep.
I found the bugs gruesome, ugly, and scary. I was scared they were going to get in my hair, or land on my face. Although cicadas have a 17-year cycle, (or 13, other) I recall that many summers, year after year, the buzz of cicadas filled the skies. Cats and dogs would proudly catch the insects, and bring them in as trophies. They must have tasted good, because some of our dogs would eat them. My ex told me that he would catch the bugs, tie a small firecracker around them with thread, light and release. I never actually saw this happen, but it sounds like something he might have done.
Sometime after college, I moved away from the area, and cicadas drifted out of my memory. This summer, here in the suburbs of Houston, the sound has returned. Although not as dense as I recall from my youth, the noise of the backyard feels me with memory. Not necessarily a good thing.
Last night, I stepped into my backyard with my two dogs for a few minutes. I heard a ruckus indoors. I thought a critter had sneaked in behind me and gotten into my kitchen. My first thought was either a squirrel or the neighborhood possum, who has been eating my tomatoes. (More on that later.) The noise was pretty loud, and scared my dogs. When I came into the kitchen, I found the culprit. A cicada was bouncing around the kitchen and into the light fixtures, over and over. I ran to the garage and got a broom. One handed (remember I’ve just had major hand surgery), I tried whacking it against the ceiling until I was finally able to knock it down. I threw a couple of paper towels on top of it, and scooped it into the kitchen trash, knowing that it was about to escape and get tangled in my hair, at which time I would run shrieking into the streets with a razor, trying to shave my head.
Fortunately, it was mostly dead. I don’t mind saying that every time I open the trash lid, I expected it to fly out and land on my face. And maybe take its revenge, like something from a late night horror movie.
All was well and peaceful after that, until my five-pound Chihuahua started barking excitedly at the darkened kitchen. She was really upset about something. I just knew the cicada had crawled out of the seams in the lid and was squirming around the floor, probably growing a foot in length as we listened. And maybe developing laser-guided missiles or even becoming radioactive. You never know about these things.
As it turns out, my dog Hannah was bravely letting me know that there was a strange broom leaning against the wall, in front of her water bowl, that might try to kill us all. Considering that she has a brain the size of a golf ball, not many things slip past her. We are lucky she’s taking watch.
I’m not going to leave my back door open anymore. At least, not until it gets a lot quieter outside.
- Man Composes Music With Cicadas (foxct.com)
- Cicadas Haiku (howanxious.wordpress.com)
- How to Survive Cicada Invasion: Eat Them (newser.com)