Saturday, May 31, 2008

Reprive from the Ordinary, Part 2.

Africanized bees are characterized by greater defensiveness in established hives than European honey bees. They are more likely to attack a perceived threat and, when they do so, attack relentlessly in larger numbers. This aggressively protective behavior has been termed by scientists as hyper-defensive behavior. This defensiveness has earned them the nickname "killer bees".

Some readers of this blog may think I thrive on pain, suffering, and misery. This is not true. I thrive on going where others don't, seeing what others don't, doing what others don't. This overrides any hardships that I might encounter during the adventure.

At least that's what I was telling myself as I lay submerged under the waters of the San Jacinto, breathing through a venthole in my hat as I listened to the swarm circle above me.

The adventure had been progessing so nicely. It took a while to escape the maddening crowds but for the last few hours I had been alone on the river in my kayak, Firefly.

My escape craft.

The place I escaped to.

By 7pm I had camp set up and was looking forward to spending a relaxing night alone under the stars. I was looking for nice peices of petrified wood when something large and black landed on my leg, followed by a stabbing pain. I smashed it in a squirt of blood and saw it had been the biggest horsefly I had ever seen. True, its smashedness had enlarged it some but even in its pre-flatten state it had been just a tad smaller across than a dime. Luckily it was the only one. I continued my hunt for stonewood.

The sun was below the trees and shadows were falling all around me. In this growing darkness two more large bugs began circling me. As I was swatting one the other managed to land and draw blood. It took off before I could swat it and the two continued to dive bomb me.

Then two more large, dark buzzing bugs joined them.

And two more.

And suddenly it turned into a swarm of hundreds. The air was thick with a horrid drone and flying black bits of pain. They hit every bit of flesh. My legs, my arms, my neck, my hair was being attacked. The buzz was like a chainsaw which is also what it felt like. I was flailing around like a dervish trying to drive them away but this just seemed to make them madder.

"These aren't horseflies, these are killer bees!" suddenly flashed through my head.

I lost it. In a panic I ran to the river and dunked myself under the water. I held my breath as long as possible then surfaced into the hungry mouth of a buzzing monster. They were still there.

I submerged myself again and stuck my hat on the surface. I was able to stick my face in the hat and breath through its vent holes. The swarm was divebombing my hat and it'd dimple in against face when they'd hit.

I had been underwater for twenty minutes and it was almost completely dark. Both ears had filled with water but I could still here them buzzing above the river. The water was shallow but still flowing strong enough to push me downstream, not to mention filling my shirt and shorts with sand. I had to get out of the water, I couldn't stay in it all night. The large number of snakes I had passed on the way downstream were just one reason I had to get back to my camp, back to my gear. All I had on me was a flashlight and a knife, my emergency survival kit was back in my vest laying on Firefly.

I hoped my mosquito netting would protect me as I launched from the river and ran to my camp. The river had pushed me almost 50 yards downstream. I ran as fast as possible while the swarm attacked.

My sanctuary.

I dove under my mosquito netting and a few of the evil creatures got in with me. They broke off their attack and flew up into the netting where I was able to smash them. Outside the netting the rest still circled.

I pulled out my flashlight, which thankfully still worked after being submerged (thanks Clark!) and looked at the insects I had killed. It was a horsefly.

I hadn't been attacked by killer bees. I had been attacked by a huge swarm of horseflies.

Smashed horsefly laying on my hat.

My camera was in my "tent" but everything else was outside. I was soaked, as was my sleeping pad. I covered in sand, inside my clothes and out. It had been a hot day but the night air was cool. Outside the netting the swarm still buzzed and bombed.

They weren't killer bees, but their bites still hurt like a *&%#@! I didn't want to try and get any of my gear. I decided the best thing to do was to just try and go to sleep. "Boy, my readers are going to LOVE this." ran through my brain as I drifted off.

A few hours later I woke up shivering. It had dropped down into the mid-70's and I was losing heat fast through my wet clothing. Luckily my silnylon tarp was under the netting with me and I was able to wrap up in it. I probably should have done that before going to sleep. Live and learn.

The tarp warmed me up but I wasn't able to get back to sleep. The sand in my clothing was rubbing me raw and my right ear was throbbing. The left ear had drained but the right was still filled with water. On the plus side the buzzing had disappeared. I finally fell back into a fitful sleep.

I woke again. The sun was bringing a glow to the eastern sky. There was no buzzing. I was cold and my ear hurt. I frantically stuffed everything into Firefly's front hatch and was back on the river by 6am. The whole time I was afraid I'd hear the swarm return. Once on the river I paddled with all my might to race away from that sandbar.

The sun came up, the swarm had not returned. I relaxed and went back to enjoying the river. This section was narrower so the water ran deeper. I didn't have to drag the kayak over shallow sandbars blocking the river.

The San Jacinto by morning's light.

San Jacinto.jpg
A bit later.

Except for the birds, snakes, turtles and occasional jumping fish I had the river to myself. So I was a little suprised when I rounded a bend and far downstream could see someone wading in the water.

As I got a little closer I realized it was a woman.

A bit closer and I realized she was topless. Then a friend waded out and joined her, both staring back at me.

She was topless, too.

I had read about things like this but never expected them. They weren't making any move to cover up. As I came abreast of them I tipped my hat and wished them a pleasent morning. They smiled and returned my greeting and then called after me. Being the polite man, I turned and paddled back to them. On shore their boyfriends were laughing and having breakfast. They yelled "Hello!" then returned to their food and beer. The ladies had many questions about me and my kayak so we talked. At that point I had gone over twelve miles, which seemed to impress them. One commented that I must be in great shape and I returned that from what I could see, their bodies were in much better shape than mine.

They seemed to like that.

I finally decided I needed to leave and set out once more. After a few strokes I thought, "What the hell" and turned back to them. Figuring nothing ventured nothing gain, I asked if I could have a picture. They readily agreed and called one of the boyfriends down to take it.

I have no caption for this picture.

A mile down from them the river openned up again and the wind picked up. It was blowing strong against my face and paddling became tough. It took me over two hours to go the last five miles. My ear was throbbing and my skin, especially around the elastic waistband of my boxers was in bad shape from the sand. Misseswether and the Wether-girls picked me up at Edgewater Park, just past Hwy. 59 on Hamblen Rd.

Tuesday morning my ear was a solid mass of flaming jello. I called my doctor at 8:01am and he said he'd see me at 9:30am. This brings us up to my previous post. He looked in my ear and let out a whistle. "I bet that hurts." he said.

He called the nurse (Woo hoo!) over and insructed her to flush out both ears with hydrogen peroxide. She went to the freezer and pulled out a bottle and a large metal syringe. The next fifteen minutes were and agonizing blur of roaring pain. At one point I almost offered to confess, but thoughts of my military buddies in Iraq held my tongue. I figure I could be as tough as them, plus I had the benefit that my interrogator was a hot blond.

Eventually she figured out I couldn't be broken and stopped the torture. My doc came back in with a prescription for Cipro-based antibiotic ear drops. I grabbed it and tried to make a fast escape. I wasn't fast enough.

"According to your records you just turned forty." he said, blocking the examination room door. "You know what that means, right?" he continued.

"Um, you are going to buy me a beer?" I replied, hopefully.

He just smiled and tapped the chart. "You know your dad's prostrate history. I told you this was coming when you hit forty."


The latex gloves and KY jelly came out.

At least he hadn't been keeping them in the freezer.

And now, What Has Merriwether Learned?
1. Horseflies in Texas are giant and form swarms indistinguable from killer bees.
2. The sandbar banks of the San Jacinto are popular places for people to gather and can be easily reached by roads in neighborhoods along it's east side.
3. You can become suprisingly cold even in the mid-70's if you fall asleep soaking wet.
3. A waterproof, silnylon tarp will help keep you warm if you are trying to sleep soaking wet on a cool night.
4. Sand-filled boxers suck. From now on Merriwether is going commando.
5. According to the internet, DEET is effective against horseflies, UFO's exist, and fire has never melted steel.
6. The first time you see your doctor after turning forty, go drunk, even if it is 9:30am on a work day.

Peace be with you.


gizmojumpjet said...


For days, I've been compiling a list of different things that theoretically could have attacked you:

Escaped Circus Animals

Obviously, I have gravely underestimated just how many dangers lurk in the woods of East Texas. I'm afraid. So very afraid...

Also I'm still a little foggy about what exactly happened to your ear. Does it hurt because you got a particularly bad bite there, or because you got water in it?

I'd love to see you do a post on exactly what you're packing the Firely with and how you organize the load.

I'm really glad you didn't get bitten by a zombie.

. said...


I was a little suprised by how many e-mails and phone calls I got from people wanting to know I was okay! People like me, they really do!

While submerged some bacteria got into my ear and found that it was good. They began multiplying and soon erupted into a full-blown ear infection. Thankfully, today is the last day of antibiotics.

I'll try and come up with a gear-organization post.


Izzy G. said...

See? This is what I meant about having to your save ass all the time if I moved to Houston. You got attacked by insects, got infected ears and got sodomized all in a 24 hour period. poor bastard. lmao. Oh well. At least you got to see boobies.

Windrider said...

man, I never get to see boobies in the wilderness! And I certainly hope you didn't tell the Mrs. about the them, lest you never get allwed to kayak again...

That is freaky about the horseflies. I've never seen that happen. But like you, I've seen some pretty amazing things in the outdoors as well. I once saw a colony of bees travelling somewhere. There must have been tens of thousands of them. I had nowhere to take cover so I just crouched down and didn't move. The went right over me about 25 feet above my head.

The worst part of you trip by far was the doctor ambushing you for the ol' finger wave! Egads, I'd rater deal with the horseflies than that! The horror.....

Merriwether said...

Wait a minute, "finger" as in only one?! Okay, me and my doc need to have a talk...


Jen said...

The Missus must not have known about the boobies picture before your doctor appt, or else the doctor would have been looking for your camera while he was in there.

By the way, did the doctor find your head? Based on some of your past antics, I always suspected that's really where it resided.


Wildcat said...

Man, that is too funny! I don't know whether i am glad or sad that i did not go.


ClarkTX said...

Ah, the river of doubt... Merriwether style...

Man so much to say... here is a disjointed brain dump...

I once dealt with swarms of horsefiles at the arboretum, but I could just run like hell back to the car. Nobody ever promised that all discoveries were good!

Thank god you had your hat on!

Too bad I wasn't there :( To me, thats just called "living life". You can't live the good parts without the parts you didn't wish for. And thats true of adventuring as well.

The baby will be a month old soon, and I will be able to head back into the wild ;)

My caption for the picture is "Into the Boobielands".

My wife was actually not put out at all when she saw the picture. Of course, I wasn't the one in it. And she is from Europe.

Too bad the proctologist got to be the one who said "going where no man has gone before". But, maybe you get to be the one to say that on the next trip.

(raises glass)

Wildcat said...

"My caption for the picture is "Into the Boobielands". "