Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Autumn sting - should have run like crazy

Wick's World


For me, it was Iraq’s “Shock and Awe” all over again. It was the carpet bombing of Hanoi. My apology for using failed wars as a metaphor for what happened to me yesterday, but in the dire circumstances of the moment I came under assault, I truly felt an attack of panic.

I had been working in our perennial garden on a cool Sunday afternoon, enjoying the weather, the lake, the nice breeze and the multitude of birds that had been getting a belly full of seeds and suet. They were preparing for the oncoming winter earmarked by the smell of autumn in the air.

What probably happened (pure speculation) is I ripped out a cluster of weeds that were smothering some of the many varieties of perennials I inherited when I bought my Eagan home on Fritz Lake. Evidently, I also tore up the covering to a ground wasp nest.

I ignored the first sting to my face. I had certainly been stung before and I felt this was in all probability a minor bite from a small ground wasp I had disturbed. My first mistake was to continue pulling weeds. My second mistake following the next bite was to pick up all the pruners, pincers, scissors and shears, so I wouldn’t have to make a second trip back down to the garden. My third mistake was removing my hat to swat at the maddened swarm. I immediately got bit all around the neck and face. The toxic venom from the multiple ground wasp stings had penetrated my chin, cheeks, jaw and throat to such an extent that a complete withdrawal of the poison would probably have required a blood transfusion. I finally realized what I should have done in the first place — run like crazy!

One summer in the late 1970s I was working for the DNR in Aitkin County cleaning out tree plantations. While trimming brush and small trees, one always tried to leave the stumps as close to the ground as possible. I had just finished cutting some brush when my chain saw grazed the opening to a ground wasp nest. This nest was much larger than the one I tangled with yesterday.

In making the effort to round up my tools, my chain saw and gas can, I wasted precious seconds that allowed the entire swarm to have a go at my unprotected body parts. For the most part, this was my face and hands. Although I wouldn’t have to make another trip back out to the woods, running with both hands occupied left me with no defense mechanism with which to fight off the stinging air force.

All I could do was run as fast to my pickup as I could. Although it seemed like miles, it was probably only a few hundred yards away. By the time I reached the truck, I had multiple stings all over my hands and face.

To add insult to injury, several of the wasps followed me into my truck. I literally had to roll up the windows and kill them off, one by one, until I felt safe enough to drive home.

Both incidents had one thing in common. Every home remedy I tried, failed me. Every medicine cabinet ointment, salve or tincture failed to ease the pain. I tried baking soda and mud. I finally went to the Internet and picked out the craziest remedy I could find. One said to run down to your nearest grocery store and pick up a jar of meat tenderizer, make a paste and apply it to the affected parts. Whether it works or not, I’ll never know. The first comment on the meat tenderizer blog said, “This is the dumbest remedy I have ever tried. It didn’t do a thing.”

By this time I finally figured out my own home remedy that partially worked. I took a large 5 percent lidocaine patch that I sometimes apply to ease my back pain. I cut it so it wrapped around my neck and chin. I closed the windows and locked the door and laid back in my recliner to let the numbing begin. I looked like a man sitting in a barber chair waiting for a “shave and a haircut; six bits.”


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