Once upon a time, there was a little boy whose family moved to Florida. Homesick in the big new house, he found consolation only in picking tangerines from the trees in the yard and learning about the central Floridian fauna. In particular, the yard was home to small toads, garden snakes, green grasshoppers, black crickets, and the little boy's favorite, fire ants. He delighted in watching them flense a dead black garden snake over the course of half a day, and would pretend that it was a poisonous black mamba.
The boy fed the ants tangerines, peanut butter, and the occasional grasshopper, but could hardly ever even manage to sneak an uneaten chicken drumstick out to the hills. He found that intensive feeding with nice, overripe fruits caused his favored colony to flourish, while the queens of those colonies that were slower to devour his benevolent gifts could be flushed into oblivion with a garden hose. Natural selection at work - or so he thought! Being eight years old, he could rarely let the diluvium ensue without launching an ill-advised kick at the hill first. Inch-wide welts that itched for three weeks bore testimony to his poor judgement.
Some months after a storm knocked some branches off the hardy palmetto tree in the yard, the boy collected some and convinced his dad to cut it into a staff for him. He then used gardening tools to whittle it into a sword and wrapped the hilt in various materials. This advantage of two and a half feet, of course, emboldened him in provoking the fire ants.
Time passed. The boy reached the age of eleven when his parents moved back north. "Someday I will be back," he whispered to his tiny charges. "And then, you shall taste manflesh!"
Alas, it was not to be. The yard was cleared several times in the years following, and flooded by a force more powerful in the art of the hurricane.
Still, I like to think there are some aggressive ants down there thanks to yours truly. And by the way, dear reader: the irony that they had already tasted manflesh (well, boyflesh) is not lost on this one!
Here are some pictures of the house, taken last week in preparation for its complete remodeling and going up for sale.
(Click on each photo to enlarge.)
Left: Banamum and five of her friends in the backyard.
Right: Auntie Seng, a family friend, and Banamum in front of the patio enclosure.
Left: Auntie Seng on a ladder in front of the tangerine tree in the back (inside the chain link fence). Those are some good tangerines. Hmm... you don't suppose that if I planted the seeds, I could recreate the biome...?
Right: Another family friend holding the ladder.
Left: A view of the backyard, now devoid of a huge oak that used to shelter my proving grounds and a fence that enclosed them.
Right: A view from the front and side of the house, outside the chain link fence. The palmetto tree can be seen on the far left. Banamum had completely forgotten it, but a breeder of ant armies never forgets the source of his first bokken.
Left: The concrete porch and front door. This landing is the only part of the house that seems bigger than I remember it. The shade it affords, I can assure you, is welcome respite from the Floridian sun.
Right: The inside of the patio enclosure.
Left: A view of the "new" lake dug in our development several years ago, seen from the family room where I plotted the devastation that my vast army of ants would wreak upon an unsuspecting world.
Right: A better view of the lake from within the patio enclosure.
Note: These were taken when my mom went down to Lakeland to see to the remodeling of the house, to document damage it had sustained in recent years, so if the house looks run-down, it's because it is. It's 24 years old, and this is more of a set of "before" shots.