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It is OK to swat or otherwise dispose of a fly, but let us not forget their usefulness

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Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 10:00 pm

When we were kids, with the reflexes of a mongoose, it was no trick to catch a fly. The sad thing was, when we did catch a fly, it would soon be known as a "walk," because to be a "fly" you have to have wings.

This past week, the President of the United States caught a fly and sent it forthwith to the great manure pile in the sky. Before you could say Jack Robinson, PETA filed a report saying the humane thing to do would have been for him to catch the fly in a non-lethal trap and then, when he had nothing else to do, he should have taken the fly outside, away from the house and the temptations thereto attending and gently released it, to allow it to die of old age in the Rose Garden fertilizer pile or some such fly Valhalla.

Would that the PETA gang treated people as kindly as they do flies. They surely raised Cain with the president over the untimely demise of the fly he so deftly snagged.

I am not a fan of the common fly. They are only one small notch above mosquitoes. I don't know about you, but if there is a mosquito in the house, he dies before I sleep, because if he doesn't, I don't. (I actually mean SHE, because the girls are the blood suckers and malaria distribution agents, not the wimpy little boys.)

On the other hand, we need flies. Were it not for flies, we would all be up to our ankles in doggy doo. Flies lay their eggs in such effluent. The eggs hatch there, and through a series of events I would rather not discuss, what with the fact I have to say words like "maggots" and such, let's just say pretty soon a greener spot on the lawn appears where the dog left his little present.

I have often thought about letting a fly out of a car 20 miles from where it snuck in. That would be punishment aplenty. I can just picture the fly escaping a car on a hot day.

It goes outside, takes in a deep soothing sigh, looks around and the relief he feels turns to utter panic: "Whoa, where in the hell am I?"

He thinks to himself, "I had a million cousins out here a minute ago! Yoo-hoo, where is everybody? OK, this isn't funny, you guys! Where are you?"

One of the great American pastimes this time of the year is to sit out on the patio in the early evening having an iced tea and conversation with a good friend, and punctuating the talk with non-competitive fly swatting.

My dear step-father was a well-known big-game hunter, but elephant or fly, he prided himself in the success of the hunt. He and I had some talks about the relative intelligence of a fly. He observed that flies stopped swarming when enough of their number had tasted the bitter embrace of a well-timed swatter. I ain't saying the little winged aggravations knew what was happening, but when a number of their little corpses accumulated at the feet of the Great White Hunter, the word must have gone out: "Stay out of that patio on Park Street. The lunatic with the bratwurst sandwich is just using the North Dakota squarehead bratwurst aroma to sucker us into range of that swatter. He won't share anything but certain death. And then he laughs, on top of it all."

So, on evenings like that, the self-imposed curfew in Fly City was a lot earlier than usual. Who said flies aren't smart?

Every kid I knew in the early days was an amateur entomologist. They all had a Mason jar with a perforated lid ready at all times, and at one time or another captured an example of every bug and small reptile in the area. If the reptile was first in the jar, lots of bugs followed.

Knowing which bug to not pick up and hold was educational in the beginning. I learned of my allergy to bee venom pretty early in the game, so my first sting was my last for many years. Ironically, we let tarantulas walk all over us at that time. To this day I have no idea where we got them, but no Lodi kid ever died from tarantulitis.

You won't believe this, so I won't tell you that my brother got a BB gun one Christmas and we used to sit in the backyard and shoot those little flies that could hover like a humming bird, and when they were still enough for us to get a bead on them, we would pin 'em up against the house wall where they would squish between the BB and the house, kind like what would happen to you if you got between a wrecking ball and a cement abutment.

The dents in the house siding was all it took to have mom come out and save many flies' lives. There was no PETA in those days, but they would have sent a bunch of those (fill in the blank) over to burn down our house to atone for the fly fatalities.

Anyway, if the PETA people finally win, they will have to pry my fly swatter out of my cold dead fingers, and I hope the doggie doo on their front lawn gets to be at least two feet deep.

Bob Bader is a writer and chiropractor. You can reach him at

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