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Lord of the Flies

WARNING! Animals were harmed in the making of this post.

At my late dispersed campsite, there were so few bugs that I could have almost left the screen door open. It almost seemed too good to be true. And you know what they say about...

Moving over to Alpine, AZ, I went out searching for a dispersed campsite and good places to mountain bike, helped by Jim & Gayle's advice.  Much to my surprise I stumbled upon a place where the Mogollon Rim fell precipitously into a canyon. I say 'stumbled' because I was NOT out there looking for scenery -- I was looking for a side road to camp on. The long-suffering reader knows that I'm going to argue that 90% of this pleasure wasn't really from the scenery per se, but rather, from the surprise.

How strange that some folks want to be told -- exactly -- where to camp, as if finding it isn't half the fun. Despite the lucky break with the scenery, there was no place to camp. So I went back into the travel trailer for a second.

What the ...!  There were at least 50 flies buzzing away inside my travel trailer. But they hadn't been noticeable in the forest. Was some food spilled inside? Something dead under the bed? It was a disgusting experience! At least they were ordinary house flies, rather than those peanut-sized deer flies of last year.

Fortunately I had a fly swatter and the flies cooperated by gravitating to screens. At first the carnage took effort, aim, and timing. Soon my arm tired. It's a wonder that the fly-swatter didn't break.

But soon I learned to relax, like in the movies, when the apprentice is mastering one of the martial arts, and his master tells him, "Too much mind!", or "Just feeeeel the Force, Luke." The fly-swatter became to me what the light sabre was to Luke Skywalker. I stopped aiming and started killing quickly, repeatedly, effortlessly. The Buddha would not have approved.

At some point in the carnage the kill-rate fell to two flies per minute. Steady-state. Flies were coming into my trailer at a rate of two flies per minute. But where? And why hadn't this ever happened before? I didn't know what to do because I had no explanation for any of this.

It's true, there was a wet, soggy creek-bottom a couple hundred yards away. But like I said, flies were not particularly noticeable outside the trailer. Only inside. I needed an idea.

When I was a lad, my school teacher father once told me that if an educated man was killing time in an airport, waiting for an airplane, he would find something interesting to think about. This example never really impressed me all that much at the time. But for some reason, this fly fiasco made me think about how badly I was doing just by thinking, and that something else needed to enter the picture.

Recall that some of the most historically important documents every written about human thinking were those of Francis Bacon. He argued that unaided human reason was a pitiful and weak thing, prone to numerous errors. He advertised in favor of observations, demonstrations, and instruments.

So, with that in mind, I renounced sterile theorizing and went outside to look for clues. It wasn't hard to spot. Their malevolent sibilance was concentrated near the broken cap of the grey-water vent on the roof of the travel trailer. At any given time there were about 20 flies in the gaggle. Some couldn't resist the siren-smell of the vent: they flew down into the abyss, presumably never to return. 

I could put my ear to the vent pipe, which was like a musical instrument in using sound-resonances. I could hear the grisly, resonant buzzing of the doomed.

Silver City, NM. "" watches his doppelganger falling through the Net of Doom, into the abyss.
Indeed, there was a strong odor coming out of that vent. Also flies were crawling through cracks between the vent tube and the roof, proper. 

So that was it, eh? I replaced the cap on the vent and filled the gaps. The fly problem disappeared. Later I dumped some of the bacterial treatment made by Roebic into the grey tank.


There was something satisfying about this experience. When you camp alone you are aware of your own puniness and isolation from society. You are also undistracted by the trivial busy-ness of city living. The mind naturally gravitates to the timeless and fundamental. In thinking about Bacon and the problem of unaided human thinking, I was connecting with History and Civilization. My school teacher father would have approved. 

I was like the thin layer of life on the outside diameter of these huge ponderosa pines in the forest where this experience took place. The inside of the tree trunk might be "dead", but its strength supports the living annulus on the periphery. 

How many of the blogs that I read will be thought of as fundamental when looked back on, from the future? What is the shelf life of most of the trivial junk on the internet? It's probably not even as long as 24 hours.


Unknown said…
Classic shot, and I love how it keeps resurfacing here from time to time. Fond memories of the Silver City hang way back when...
To Simplify looks like he got got swatted by the ultimate Fly Swatter!!! Goes good with this post, for sure. :)
Box Canyon Mark from Lovely Ouray, Colorado
Bob Giddings said…
In Alaska the flies were so bad that I bought an electric flyswatter. Sort of a battery powered bug zapper. Bad Karma no doubt, but immensely satisfying in a bloodthirsty sort of way. This saved me from punching holes in my screens from swatting too vigorously. All you had to do was touch them and they were pfft! Especially useful for when the whine of mosquitoes woke you in the night. Just wave the thing around in front of your face in the dark, and problem solved. Echo-location in the air was more accurate than my eyes.

While I'm being helpful: Man, what is it with the orange print on black/dark grey background. My eyes are bleeding. Is it Halloween already? :o)
Jim and Gayle said…
If only I had thought about lying down to cross over the net of doom, I might have been able to do it.
You are forgiven for killing those flies.
Thanks Gayle. In my own defense I'd like to point out that I didn't eat any fly flesh. (grin)
Glad you thought it was a good fit. I prefer to leave landscape photography to people who are serious at it, and good at it -- like you. My specialty is the "photo cartoon" that illustrates a point.
It would have been better if you'd somehow gotten your saxophone into it -- the photo, I mean, not the mine shaft.
Never been to Alaska. Distance and bugs scared me off

Color schemes are just temporary experiments. I am happy to change it. I'd like to stick with the dark background for awhile longer. What color text do you suggest?
Bob Giddings said…
I'm a traditionalist. Black print on a white page is the best contrast, and contrast is the name of the game in easy reading. Anything else is just a cutesy distraction.

Framing the page is another matter. Dark colors are good for that, if the page itself is light. Your eyes will always go to the light first, as they should.

But if you have to have a funereal page background, choose a lighter color for print contrast. Not orange. But perhaps not pure white, which might also penetrate the back of my skull. Perhaps a slight off-white on this grey.

But really, the object is to make the words stand out. Any futzing around with the page background distracts from that.

Here's a couple of samples:

But of course, these examples are not entirely without prejudice. :o)
Bob Giddings said…
O, and about Alaska. You should go at least once in your life. The bugs are not bad on the coast, where the offshore breeze keeps them down. And the coast is precisely where vertiginous mountains fall directly into the sea. It will take your breath away.

Alaska is all about the coastline. Inland, the land shows the scars of absolute winter even when it is August and 95 degrees out. Trees give way to bushes, and eventually to moss and tundra.

But on the coast the scenery will swivel your head, and render you speechless for days at a time. All your "lower 48" mock sophisticated remarks about "post-card pretty" will be swept away by the real thing. You will re-introduce yourself to awe. You will surrender to it.

It's a long way up and back. But go early and stay late, for in the end it is worth every mile. And don't neglect to get out on a boat. Right up to the face of a glacier, if possible. You know you are in Alaska when it becomes patently obvious that people are spending more on their boats than their houses. And for good reason.

Lower Alaska is equally good, but a different trip, best taken by ferry from island to island, maybe with nothing more than a bicycle and panniers. A person can always squeeze on the ferry on the spur of a moment, if you bring your own bedding and sleep on the deck. A car or RV needs an appointment a year in advance.
Ted said…
If you had a cat like mine you wouldn't need a swatter or anything else. She even caught and ate all the peanut-sized ones that got inside when we camped together last.

Then again, you'd have to learn to dodge the flying cat -- she pays no attention to what's in the way when on the fly hunt. She ran right up my back once. That hurt. Also, my screens are getting ragged from Mitsuki's over-enthusiastic yet deadly (to flies) claws.
rvlady5 said…
Wayne Wirs"s sister passed away last night. Go to Wayne's blog. :'/