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In Our Own Backyard...The battle lines are drawn

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columns Cloquet, 55720

Cloquet Minnesota 122 Avenue C 55720

I was driving to work one morning this week when I came up behind a car that was going unusually slow and weaving back and forth between the center line and the fog line. I dropped back a bit, figuring the driver was likely on the cell phone, or texting his girlfriend, or had possibly stayed out a bit too late the night before, drinking with his buddies.

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But when we got to a long, straight stretch of roadway, I cautiously pulled up behind the car and passed it, giving it a wide berth as I did. I couldn’t help but glance over at the driver as I drove by. It was then the light dawned as I recognized the by-now familiar motions — the driver was lunging this way and that inside the cab of his car, swatting mosquitoes!

To be sure, this year’s battle against the outbreak of the pesky pests has gone from the sketchy guerilla warfare of a couple of weeks ago to full-out “shock and awe.” In case you’ve already forgotten just what that means, Wikipedia defines it as “a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power, dominant battlefield awareness, dominant maneuvers, and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”

I watched a pair of loons on the lake from my kayak the other day, miserably dodging what I imagine to be black flies or mosquitoes. The loons were constantly rifling through their feathers, snaking their heads around and lunging at unseen pests with their beaks. When they could stand it no longer, they did the one thing guaranteed to rid themselves of the pasts — dove beneath the surface of the water.

Some of us humans have reached the conclusion that the only way to deal with this year’s extraordinary mosquito population is to resign ourselves to staying inside. But on the few truly stellar summer days we’ve had so far, that’s not even an option for the rest of us.

My husband and I always try to get out for a walk in the evening, but even so simple a pleasure has become challenging when the mosquitoes begin to dive bomb us as we walk out the front door. They’re the little ones, who seem to hatch out in swarms, be particularly nasty and bite really hard. We’d tried wearing baseball caps, tall socks, long pants and sleeves and dousing ourselves with bug spray, but that simply wasn’t working. In fact, my husband — who reacts strongly to mosquito bites — was one of those who had finally decided to forego the daily walk and stay inside. I was simply too stubborn.

I pondered what more I could do to keep the mosquitoes off the back of my neck and away from behind my ears, which seem to be the most vulnerable spots targeted by the hungry insects. I finally decided to try wearing my bright purple hoodie, with the hood up to protect my head and neck. And you know what? It worked! I walked along the country lane not far from our house, buried in the recesses of my hoodie, and nary a mosquito was able to work his way in to bite me.

I rushed home after I’d finished my walk and told my husband about my new “secret weapon.” By then, he’d figured anything was worth a try, so the next night the two of us set off in our hoodies, with the hoods up. We could hear the mosquitos whining around our heads, but this time they failed to infiltrate.

I admit I did have a fleeting thought about how we must have looked as we walked past the house of a neighbor. Would he glance out the window and wonder who it was skulking around the neighborhood in hoodies on a warm summer night? Would he think we were a couple of suspicious punks scoping out the territory?

What if he really thought we were up to no good — and called our Neighborhood Crime Watch to report it? What if someone actually called the police?

Somehow, I doubted if the local deputy would take kindly to the excuse we were merely out practicing our “shock and awe….”

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