Never had fire ants before South Alabama

Published 1:39 am Saturday, August 19, 2017

I received a disturbing call informing me that a dear friend suffered a fall with an injured wrist and one foot landing on a fire ant bed. I shuddered to think about it, remembering my family’s experiences with the horrible insects.

I had never even heard of fire ants until we moved to south Alabama. Neither had my husband. We had been in Andalusia only a few days when our son stepped in an ant hill in our back yard. The insects covered his legs. Fortunately he managed to get them off quickly, but not soon enough to avoid three or four bites. Welts rose from them and the youngster began to complain of the pain. I rushed inside to get medicine for the ant victim. As yet, his daddy had no way of knowing how painful the bites were. He chided me slightly for what he considered my extreme show of motherly sympathy.

The tide turned later the same day when my husband encountered another mound in the yard. The ants poured out their vengeance on him in the form of several bites on his legs. He launched a full-scale attack on the potent insects. Before he was through, the yard looked like a family of moles had moved in and tunneled the entire yard.

My husband had wanted me to go fishing with him for years, but my idea of fun was not to sit on a river bank or in a boat roasting in the sun waiting on a fish to bite. I finally agreed when some friends invited us to fish at their catfish pond—an almost sure place to land a fish. It was a pleasant late summer afternoon, so I resolved to endure it. My hook was out and within a few minutes, I had a bite. My cork went down under. It was a big one. Trembling with excitement, I listened intently as my husband shouted instructions on hauling it in. Just as I was about to bring it up, a terrific pain spread across my foot. I forgot all about that fishing pole. I reached down to rub my foot and there they were, several fire ants crawling on my shoe. The fish swam off while I scrambled to scrape the ants away. My husband gave up. It was my last fishing attempt.

Fire ants attacked me once in my reporter days when I rushed to make a picture at an accident scene on a city street. I stood in a grassy spot with my camera poised when a stab of pain stung my foot. A picture of the dance I did to brush the ants of my feet and legs would probably have been better than the out of focus one I got of a truck involved in the accident.

I am very cautious of those familiar mounds of dirt when I see them. Sometimes, though, they find me before I realize they are there.

Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.