Figs, Fig Beetles, A Step Ladder, and Me
It was a beautiful morning. I had a perfect view of the bright blue sky and the puffy white clouds chasing each other across it. I turned my head to the left and noted the grass was a well-manicured, deep green and thankfully plush against my back. To my right was a somewhat mangled step ladder.
I was reminded of the many times I lay in the grass as a child watching clouds, attempting to imagine what their shapes might be. I might see a horse, or the North American continent maybe. Chewing on a piece of grass watching Lassie with Timmy giving chase across the sky. Godzilla headed toward Tokyo to stomp it flat. This was not one of those times.
My mother-in-law has a huuuuuge fig tree. Not just huge…it is huuuuuge! And it is loaded with figs. Three pickings into August and there are still ‘all the figs in the world’…plus one. There are also all the yellow jackets, wasps, and huge figeater beetles in the world. “Every rose has its thorns” and every fig tree little stinging bastards or beetles…big green, droning beetles with the grace of a C-17 Globemaster. Maybe the weight too.
I hate to be wasteful and there seemed to be thousands of figs just out of reach, dangling just above my outstretched hand. Enough to fill a dozen or more canning jars with preserves and enough left over for roasted figs in balsamic vinegar wrapped in prosciutto, or honey-fried figs smothering a buttered, cathead biscuit. All I needed was the step ladder…and a biscuit.
I was doing well, balancing myself on the step ladder. The little neighbor kid watching from the fence. A child of four or five.
I’d picked two Walmart bags full of figs. Shake the limb so any biting bastards would skedaddle…but the fig beetles, some were slow to move…and even slower to change direction. They isssss huuuuge too…some an inch long! Lawdy mercy. Big and metallic green, they have the agility of a drunken elephant. It also appears they are easily confused.
These droning, drunken beetles are scarabs. The same scarabs made famous by the ancient Egyptians. The same family of beetles that includes dung beetles that spend their days rolling cow poop into little balls. They are known to bury two-hundred and fifty times their weight in dung in one night.
Why I asked myself. Wish I had not asked. They eat poop and hollow out the balls as a mating chamber. How romantic. What wine goes with poop?
They are hard-bodied, not so little, muthaf@#$as that will knock you off a step ladder when they make solid contact directly between your eyes.
I moved more slowly than it did, but I moved which caused the step ladder to mimic a drunken sailor bouncing off of alleyway walls. Not so suddenly, I was laying in the grass watching clouds chase each other across a brilliant blue sky…and why I’m sitting here icing a shoulder and a hip.
What really intrigued me was how long it took me to fall from the fourth or fifth step of the ten-foot step ladder to the ground where I landed with a thump and a bounce. In my mind I heard the kid snicker, “Stupid man went boom…ha, ha, ha!”
I understand gravity, bodies accelerate at nine point eight meters per second squared. With nothing to impede your fall, like say air or fig tree limbs, a body will accelerate at nine point eight meters per second for every second the body falls until it reaches terminal velocity.
Newton lied! It took me forever to fall from up there to down there and my feet were no more than a meter and a half, say six or eight feet, off the ground. Well, they were probably higher when my feet and head exchanged places. Thankfully, I never reached a terminal velocity, just a painful one.
I had time to think through my entire life story…but I did not. While falling to my death, I did not want to think about why the little blond threw me over in the eighth grade.
Instead, I thought about how stupid I was to get knocked off a step ladder by a big dung rolling bug. I still had time to plan on executing a tuck and roll when I hit. Funny, it was more a flounder and flop in a cloud of dust…except there was no dust, just wet grass. “Ha, ha, ha! Stupid man goes boom!” Again the four-year-old in my head laughed.
Suddenly, there was the question, “Am I ever going to breathe again?” That old air just exploded right out of my lungs. Lawdy Mercy! Logically, I knew if I just let myself pass out; I would breathe again…maybe.
The next few minutes were spent evaluating pain. I’m still evaluating. Painful bruise on the hip but not too bad…vivid colors to come. My shoulder took the brunt of my death dive. It hurts bigly!
I worry I might have torn a rotator cuff. That would be bad, I still have hopes of pitching in the Bigs…well, maybe I can try out for America’s Got Talent…me and my dancing step ladder. Fig beetles will be not be allowed.
Featured image was taken by Julian Paul and appeared in Wide Open Spaces: https://www.wideopenspaces.com/what-not-to-do-when-you-fall-out-of-your-treestand/
Don Miller is a retired teacher and coach who has taken up writing for his own amusement. He writes on various subjects and in various genres. Some would say he can’t figure out what he wants to be. His author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2I89J5GhYSWyipVxhVM2uJ16pfbTOd6lpYyuWOE6iBVwhvj7GKq2QubU0