First we stopped at this state park called Johnston Shut-Ins. I'm not a big fan of Missouri (though I've come to very much appreciate St. Louis), but the Shut-Ins was a great place--it was woods and had a stream that ran through carved rocks with big boulder-like surroundings and many pools. You could swim and stream down the semi-rapid small waters from rocks to rapids, from pool to pool, all of it natural and fun. But, I was also an older boy and I felt a tad foolish acting like a kid. I was also checking out all the women and girls who swam and camped there.
Then we moved on, further south to the Ozarks area of Missouri. It was along some lake, in the woods, you know, a campground. It was not nearly as interesting as the Shut-Ins. We cooked out, swam in the lake, stuff like that. And there were flies. Sure, there were mosquitos, there were dragonflies and bottleflies--we called them horseflies, those long skinny blue flies, smaller but similar to a dragonfly--and there were deer flies. I hated the deer flies. They were big and fat, looking like mutant house flies, and swarmed around all day long and into the night. And they bit. Not a small bite or a prick like a mosquito, but a sharp stinging bite that made you sit up straight. Ouch. So, deer flies were low on my list of needed creatures in the world.
And what I remember--what this post is about, essentially--is that I was coming back from the lake at dusk, headed back to camp. I was barefoot, bare chested, making my way through the darkening trees and here was this one deer fly buzzing me, landing on me, biting me. I began to jog a bit but could not shake this single fly. I was swatting at it, so it was attacking me where it thought I could not reach. So, I slowed down a bit. I was very angry at this fly. I hated it. And I walked, waited. The fly--and I could tell this, it was a very evil-genius type of deer fly--the fly thought it had the best of me, that I was but its very large young meal for a while. And I watched waited until I felt that big fly land squarely in the middle of my back. Who could swat such a thing in the middle of one's back? I'm sure the evil genius fly thought this.
It turned out that I could swat it.
I was in my teens. A strengthening boy. Nimble and quick. And when I felt that pestilent pillaging fly land on the middle of my back, I quickly brought my arm and hand behind me, using the back of my hand, and smacked it! Good god that fly must have been surprised! I smacked it and felt it with both hand and back and knew I had gotten it and I stopped and looked down behind me and there it was. Yes, it was dusk, but I had my keen eyesight and I could see the damn thing in the leaves and it wasn't quite dead and I took my bare foot and stomped the bastard until it was dead. Dead as a door nail.
One dead deer fly out of a million, but it was the one who bothered me the most and I am--to this day--very glad it is dead. Yes! I would never harm a person or animal, even some insects (well, I should not say never, because there are always circumstances when no doubt I would, or even have to some degree) but even now I find delight in recalling the death of that deer fly in southern Missouri. I've killed other flies or beetles or bugs that bugged me (I killed two flies on a low mountain top in Santa Fe because they would not leave me alone--snatched them cleanly out of the air and squished them and buried them in the sandy soil--I remember that), but this one was my most triumphant. So, other than the Shut-Ins, what I remember most about Missouri is the killing of a fly.
Maybe that's why I'm not so big on Missouri.