Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My First Encounter with Fire Ants

After about 14 hours of travel (most spent waiting for connecting flights between Newark and San Antonio) I arrived at Ft Sam Houston, Texas completely exhausted.
It was late in the day, a typical sultry September evening and like many of the platoon mates also waiting to be processed in, I lay my full duffle bag down, used it as a makeshift bed, and fell asleep in seconds.

Unlike the rest, however, I had set it down next to a fire ant hill and when I lay back I placed my low cut shoe-wearing right foot smack into the soft, churned up soil of the anthill.

Now, I don't know if you've ever seen these little fuckers but when you disturb them, even a little, they
By the 100s... by the 1000s... they swarm over the skin (or, in my case, up the inside of the clothing) of any creature foolish enough to stick around.

By the time I awakened they had reached my crotch, belly, and waist in significant numbers, every one making its displeasure known by biting with vicious little pincers that seemed to have been dipped in Tabasco sauce.
Growing up in the Northeast and having no experience with fire ants I had idea what the source of this sudden savagery was but I was on my feet in a flash and ripping my Class A uniform (that's the kind with a suit coat and tie you see in old movies) off as fast as I could.
By the time I got my pants down my lower legs were almost completely covered, a squirming dark reddish brown mass of biting beasts and their advance scouts were working their way painfully north, a few having already reached my upper chest.
At the expense of them gaining access to my hands and arms I began slapping them off as fast as I could. My fellow trainees, all medics-to-be, helped, slapping them away with their hands, jackets, and any bit of fabric they could find.
It probably lasted less than two or three minutes for
most of the tiny terrors to be removed but the few that were missed managed to find new spots to pince, making their excruciating presence known much to my dismay.
But it seemed endless and I know must have made an amusing spectacle as I danced around half-naked.

At least I know I did to my platoon sergeant standing just across the gravel in front of the orderly room in all his spit-shined perfection.
Laughing uproariously, he said, "Welcome to Texas, boy. Them's what we call 'piss ants' 'round heah."


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