Sunday, October 16, 2005

#84 - Getting Ants-y

Ok, I get it now. I didn't before, because this seems to be something of a regional problem down here in Orange County, but I finally understand the ant problem.

Regular readers (all three of you!) will remember my long-running feud with these tiny black marauders. I have worn out so many cans of so-called "poison free" ant spray this summer that our local stores no longer carry them. I've been reduced to begging to find enough mint-essenced bug killer to wipe these things out, and still they keep coming. It appeared that my cooking was simply too good to ignore, and the critters had hung "Chez Woody" signs at strategic entrances to our house.

But now I get it.

Ants are related to salmon. Really. There can be no other viable explanation.

I've visited the locks on the Columbia river a few times over the years, and been on the tours. I've seen the salmon ladders that allow these retentive fish to return to their breeding waters in order to reproduce and die (if they don't get eaten by bears, caught in trawler nets, or fished by native Americans along the way first). I know these things because I've seen just about every National Geographic special, Disney True Life Adventure, and Bill Nye the Science Guy episode ever written on this topic. These fish are a programmer's dream: No matter what anomalies you throw at them, they keep doing what they're programmed to do over and over and over again. Without debugging! Even if, as humans have been wont to do whenever we crowd wildlife out of their natural element, their spawning grounds disappear, the fish will keep trying to get back to them to do what Nature programmed them to do.

So it is with the ants. Now, I'll grant you there are a few differences. Ants have way more legs than your average salmon, and even a salmon fingerling could probably devour an entire colony of ants in a single meal, if the ants would cooperate and drive themselves into the river, thus saving me the trouble of having to eradicate a new generation roughly every two days or so. (Sorry... I seem to be somewhat single-minded about this!) Also, the fact that fish live in the water, while ants live in my kitchen is one more difference that some snooty scientists might label "significant."

But having observed salmon in their natural habitat (my television), I can now state with authority that ants are related to salmon. And the blame for my infestations rests squarely on the shoulders of Orange County's first Spanish settlers.

I really can't blame the native Americans for this problem. For one thing, I can't afford the legal fees. But, truthfully, they at least had the sense to pack up their homes and move them to another location if the ant problem got too bad. The Spaniards, on the other hand, tended to be permanent. They built serviceable homes out of adobe and built ranchos on which they raised cattle and cheap tequila. What they didn't realize was, they were building their adobe dwellings directly on top of the world's largest ant spawning grounds. Had they been truthful, "Santa Ana" would have been named "Hormigaville," and property values would have remained in the basement until the Mafia figured out how to turn every ant hill into a gambling venture.

Once I made this connection, other fascinating aspects of early California culture became more easily explained. The colorful folk dances of the Spanish settlers, for instance. Sissy anthropologists will tell you that the dances have their roots in ancient tribal rituals. This is only partly true. They leave out the part that those rituals involved the stamping out of ants that had once again invaded la cocina, and some clown who was six sheets to the wind on cheap tequila decided to put it to music. He had to be drunk because he invented marimbas to accompany it. It explains everything.

So, year after year, the ant colonies return to their pre-programmed spawning grounds to breed several new generations of ants, and my kitchen floor happens to rest on top of one such ground.

So now I understand my ant problem. This is why they will likely never be completely eradicated while we live here. My best bet is to make some sort of peace offering to them. Perhaps keep a piece of rancid meat in my garbage can outside so they'll have something to eat and maybe skip my pantry.

In the meantime, I need to go have a conversation with Mrs. Woody about why she refuses to let me teach science and history to the Woodyettes.

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