who knows what is living in the wilderness
Many people have heard about black flies. But they can never know about them until they have experienced these creatures in the Adirondack Mountains. It must be something to do with the weather and other extreme conditions. All of the crawly or air-born creatures are bigger and nastier (probably due, in part, that they are New Yorkers - well, upstate). I swear I have seen mosquitoes in the dead of winter at forty below out of the corner of my eye. I believe were wearing little parkas and were walking using snowshoes rather than flying. But that could just have been a bit of ice on my glasses. Never the less, in the summer the mosquitoes and even houseflies are very tough. After having broken many flyswatters, I ended up having to resort to a claw hammer to destroy them. But with all that, those critters are nothing compared to black flies.
After the desolation of the long horrendous winter in the Adirondacks, the spring greening explodes - warm or relatively warm weather doesn’t last long so everything that grows does so at breakneck speed. That speedy growth applies to all living things and especially our insect brethren. During these cool wet springs, those little tormentors grow into things that are described in the Bible’s book of Revelations.
One day late in one of those springs I was in my office at a residence for the mentally retarded doing my best to manage the place, when Gail, one of the staff staggered in her arm wrapped in a bloody rag. She was a large sturdy Adirondack woman but at the moment she was pale and weaving around.
"The nasty thing bit me!" Gail said.
I said, "Sit down. What bit you? "
She said, " I'm not sure but it was big, hairy and fast. It ran at me from behind a tree, bit me on the back of my arm, and ran back into the woods. I know this is going to sound crazy", Gail said tight-lipped, "But the thing looked like the biggest black fly I ever saw! "
I thought she must be delirious from the loss of blood so I had the nurse bandage her arm and take her to the hospital.
But I had to find what had attacked her and get rid of it before the residents got home from their day program. I called the two out of work lumberjacks (Virgil and Leon) who were doing some work for me in the front yard and asked for their help. Arming ourselves with baseball bats from the recreation locker we crept into the trees behind the house.
It was scary quiet and still in that patch of trees. We knew something was up because no birds were singing. We stood back to back to back so we could see in all directions at once.
"Nothing! " Leon said and then, "Wait, Is that a wing sticking out from behind that tree? "
As I turned to look a thing as black as the inside of a cow and about the size of a medium-sized dog came around the tree and charged at Leon. The thing was as ugly as 1950's Sci-Fi movie monster and had what looked like two big fangs protruding from its mouth-thing.
The speed of the attack surprised Leon and before he could hit the thing with his bat it bit in his leg. But then Vigil and I were on it swinging with our bats like two lunatics. The thing took a few blows to its head (well, where I thought its head was). Those blows only seemed to agitate the beast. But fear is a great motivator Vigil and I took turns smacking the beast like it was a railroad spike. Leon who was on the ground wrapping his shirt around his leg couldn’t help much. But yelled encouragement. Between Virgil and I, we beat the critter into a pile of bloody dead flesh.
Once we were sure it was dead, Virgil and I collapsed on the ground next to Leon. It had taken all our strength to dispatch the thing and now we really looked at it for the first time. I had never - I thought - seen anything like that before. Then with squinting eyes, I looked at it and could see this was a black fly - the biggest and nastiest I had ever heard of but never the less there it was.
I left Virgil to guard the carcass and called an ambulance for Leon, the whole time my head spinning. While we were waiting for the ambulance, I went into the house and brought out a bathroom scale to weigh the thing - 42lbs! Good, God! Who would believe such a thing existed. But we knew there were things in these wilderness woods that no one had ever seen.
It must have been the shock of the encounter because the three of us found ourselves talking and laughing about the whole thing and we started wondering what black fly would taste like. Virgil took out his knife and cut steaks out of the bug. We had, out of necessity, beaten the bug into pulp just to keep it from getting us, and now having cut it up into steaks, we realized we had no proof of its existence.
Hungry with the effort of our adventure and burning with curiosity we fired up the grill and threw the steaks on. The meat took a long time to cook (it was very bloody) but in the end, we sat down to eat at the picnic table.
What did it taste like? - Well, to be honest, it tasted nothing like chicken. It was more greasy and gritty like a duck breast rolled in a breading of dirt. None of us was that hungry.
Yes, I know it is hard to believe this story. Many will say we who live in the mountains are prone to exaggeration. I guess I have to admit I have exaggerated a bit - the bug was only 10 lbs. but it was mean enough to make up for the difference.
Oh, I never heard of another black fly that big or nasty but the Adirondack Mountain area is 6 million acres of wilderness so who can tell if there are more of them out there.