Doodlebug, Doodlebug…

Fly away home! Yer house is on far (fire) and yer children are gone! Appalachian Rhyme

Oh, the things we did to engage ourselves and forgo boredom when we were children. Boredom?  I don’t remember being bored as a child.  The days were filled with activities, many forced upon us, but boredom is not a word I would have used. Most days we were allowed to be creative…sometimes to our own distress.

I also don’t remember being very successful chanting Doodlebug, Doodlebug, either, which considering the little insect we were attempting to vacate from his abode might have been fortuitous. Behold! The Doodlebug.

Antlion larva…a doodlebug. Looks like something out of a 50s horror flick on its way to attack Tokyo.

At this point, unless you are of a certain age, you may be asking, “What in the heck is a doodlebug?” I doubt kids today have a clue about doodlebugs.

So, what’s a doodlebug? It depends kiddies and I’m going to further confuse the issue.  A doodlebug is, according to 1: the larva of an antlion also: any of several other insects. 2: a device (such as a divining rod) used in attempting to locate underground gas, water, oil, or ores. 3: a buzz bomb.

You might still be confused.  Let me clarify.  The doodlebug of rhyme is the larva of the antlion, an insect that primarily subsists on ants.  Divining, also called dowsing, or water witching uses a forked tree branch, called a doodlebug, from a witch-hazel bush, or metal rods to find water or certain minerals.  Finally, a buzz bomb was a World War Two unguided flying bomb used by Nazi Germany to bomb London.  The British called it a doodlebug because of the sound it made. Still, confused? Me too! I’ve never heard a doodlebug make a sound.

The adult antlion: It eats ants.

The divining rod, dowser, or water witch. It finds water…maybe. I’m a bit doubtful of the science behind it…there is none, but the site of our well was found using one.

And finally the Buzz Bomb or the doodlebug as the British called it because of the sound it made. Over ten thousand were launched toward England, six thousand or so landed in London. It goes boom.

Enough! Back to the rhyme.  As a child, I was instructed to find a moon crater-looking depression in dry sandy soil.  Sitting next to it I, along with my brother and cousins, would all chant, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.”  Because of my Southern Appalachian accent, it might have come out of my mouth differently and there are many other variations of the chant, some not very cheery. 

“Doodlebug doodlebug, come out of your house; it’s burning up with your wife and all your children, except Mary-she’s under the dishpan.” What are we teaching our children? It has no rhyme and the rhythm is awful.

The chant, along with dropping grains of sands down its hole, supposedly caused the critter to come out.  If that didn’t work a small twig was inserted for the larva to latch onto.  That didn’t work either.  I have a lifetime batting average of zero enticing doodlebugs.  My guess is it was a ploy to keep the young ’uns occupied while the adults kept busy with their chores.

My friends and I did a good job of keeping ourselves busy without assistance from a doodlebug…or our parents. We played other childhood games, mostly made up games played from TV shows we had seen or books we had read. We fought and refought battles with corncobs, created pirate ships from a treehouse thrown together with scrap lumber, used my grandmother’s front porch as Fort Apache, although Trixie looked nothing like Rin Tin Tin, and swung from “vine” ropes screaming our best Tarzan yells.

There was one little issue when a friend tried to jump off the hayloft imitating Roy Rogers jumping out of a second story window onto Trigger’s back. Problem was, my friend’s steed was his Schwinn bicycle. He missed the first time and only tried once more. It was a success…maybe. Don’t know if he was ever able to “go forth and multiply.”

We also learned we could fling a Chinese orange a country mile by stobbing (stabbing) it onto the end of a slender sapling and whipping it through the air. We inadvertently on purpose bounced one off the top of Mr. Jimmy’s ’49 Chevy as it motored down the highway. Didn’t hurt anything but gave the old man a bit of a start. Also got our hides tanned.

I know, I know. Some of you of a certain age are wondering, “Did you tie thread around the legs of a June bug and fly it in circles?” No but I know some who did. Always felt it was cruel treatment even for a bug.

Speaking of cruel treatment. The only deed I am truly embarrassed about was strapping a tin can to several large bottle rockets taped together and putting a frog in it. Honestly, it was Mickey Morris’ idea and I really thought the rocket would reach escape velocity. First Frog on the Moon! It may have been the first, we never found the frog.

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