We stopped along one of the many country roads next to a clump of the spiny plants. Now let me tell you, cutting off sections of a cactus without a pair of heavy gloves is not the easiest thing that I have done. No matter where I put my fingers some of those barbed spines were right there to stab me. I managed to get a couple of the pads off the plant before my leg felt like it was on fire. Apparently, I had stepped on or near a fire ant nest.
Now fire ants just don’t crawl up across your sneakers and bite you randomly. No, an entire army of the quarter-inch monsters scramble up your leg and when their commander gives the order, they all bite at once. Actually, a fire ant doesn’t bite you. It uses its jaw to get a good grip and then stings you.
So here I am, straddling a bunch of waist-high spiny cactus with a sharp knife in one hand and a bunch of prickly pears in the other when it feels like I’ve just strolled barefoot into a bed of red-hot coals. Somehow, I managed to instantly change locations and start brushing away the attacking hoards of insects.
So how did fire ants spread so far across the U.S.? A single queen ant can lay 3,500 eggs a day and will live five to seven years. Talk about illegal immigration!
Anyway, as I continued to mow my field on the day after England’s future king was born, I hit another of those insect high rises. Over the roar of the diesel tractor and the thunder of the cutting blades I could faintly hear a million little ant voices scream as their home was destroyed by my mechanical tsunami. I think I heard them yell, “God save the queen!”
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.