Back in 1956 in San Francisco–when I was a ten year old tomboy and loved helping my dad out by doing chores in the garden–something inexplicable happened to me. It was a sunny day and I had just finished siphoning the water from our family’s cement fish pond. My dad was away from the house, at work, and I was looking forward to surprising him with a clean, sparkling pond. This siphoning ritual was one that repeated itself two or three times each year. After bringing the water level down to about four inches, I would step into the water barefoot, catch the pond’s large and wriggly, orange, black, and white, spotted fish, throwing them into a nearby bucket of green pond water filled with lily pads. Next I would siphon out the water even further, until only a scummy sludge was left. I would scoop out this sludge with a metal dust pan, scrub and mop the pond’s cement floor, then turn on the garden hose and start adding water. A few minutes later I would squirt in some water-treating liquid, and finally I’d start tossing in fish. I had done this so many times that it was second nature to me.
On this particular day however, right after having brought the water level down to about three inches, and right after taking off my shoes and stepping into the pond, in order to start catching fish… I was startled to discover that the ground was crunchy underneath me, almost as though I were standing in a pool to which had been added buckets and buckets of popcorn. Cupping my hands together, I bent down and scooped the water, thus hoping to discover the source of this odd sensation. It was then that I beheld a mound of drowned Potato Bugs. Yes… Jerusalem Crickets! There they were, all jumbled together in a tangled, ungodly heap, filling my cupped, wet hands. And here I was, ankle deep, in a sea of, crunchy yet rubbery, sci-fi horror corpses. It grossed me out so bad! I remember suppressing a gag reflex as I jumped frantically out of the pond. I ran hose water over my feet, at full force, almost compulsively for about twenty minutes. I wanted to run away forever! To call my mom and dad on the phone, and somehow convince them to sell the house.
And yet, it was only a matter of minutes before the tough and rugged jungle queen/cowgirl (that I fancied myself to be) started to emerge again. An almost delirious calm came over me, accompanied by a mounting sense of determination. I would not be turned into a chicken-shit sissy by those miniature, ball-headed, ball-eyed monsters! So I went into the house to fetch my galoshes and my mom’s rubber gloves. I jumped into that pond from hell, and scooped out every one of them. Eventually they formed a pile about two feet tall and three feet wide. I left it sitting there, at one side of the pond. It was my trophy, my multi-faced shrunken head. Proof that I could successfully make it through even the most unspeakable of horrors. Besides, I wanted my dad to see this horrific vision for himself. Perhaps he could explain it to me, reveal to me why hundreds upon hundreds of tiny monsters from the id, would tumble to watery deaths. My dad had no idea however, and neither did my mom. When I told friends and relatives about it, they looked at me aghast, as well as perplexed. I always wore my galoshes after that… before stepping into that fish pond. But even though we didn’t sell our house for many, many years, the incident never repeated itself.
If you, or anyone, can explain this experience to me, or share similar [or
un-similar] experiences, I will be deeply grateful.
your sister in Potato Bugs, Anya Luz Lobos
You are our new hero. We can post a link with your request that takes people to your email address if you would like. Our best explanation is that there was a population explosion that year. Potato Bugs are nocturnal ramblers and often drown in pools. What happened in your case was a perfect storm.
Hello again, New hero? Me? Worst Potato Bug Experience Ever? ALL RIGHT!!! About posting a link… Why not? It would be fun to receive email responses. I can’t help but think that maybe there are other “perfect storm” accounts waiting to be told. Still, it boggles the mind, doesn’t it? I mean, wouldn’t the first two or three bugs that fell in the pond yell, “Help, I’m drowning!” in their language of Jerusalem or via insect radar or whatever, thus alerting the others to the danger? Or is it possible that Potato Bugs are noble and self-sacrificing (albeit stupid) creatures, and that each of the remaining 997 Potato Bugs took the fatal plunge in an effort to save the others? In any case, thank you for the bestowal of honors. I truly do feel honored. Yay me! (This fifty-nine year old cowgirl/queen of the jungle… still rules!) Sincerely,
Anya Luz Lobos
P.S. I might be able to dig up a picture of me at age ten, sitting next to the–now historic–fish pond. Would that qualify me for your home page?
I just found the photo in one of my albums: I’m almost ten tears old and am sitting next to the pond with my best friend Beatrice. This photo was taken shortly before the “perfect storm” incident. Neither Beatrice (left) nor I even knew that Potato Bugs existed, at that point!
Ed. Note: November 15, 2011
We believe that 1000s of Potato Bugs were driven to drown after being parasitized by Horsehair Worms or Gordian Worms.