A Tired Older Woman Chases The Lights

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

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Okay, I admit it.  I may have gone a bit overboard in my recent blog post A Tired Older Woman: Goes Bug-Eyed.  After all, some of my readers have claimed that I’m frightening their children with my dire predictions.  Obviously, none of these comments came from southerners.

Folks in the Deep South understand what I’m talking about.  After all, they’ve lived amongst the flora and fauna and, therefore, come with a deep understanding and respect for all types of critters, especially those that have six legs and can fly.  Yes, we’re talking about insects again.  Bear with me!

In an effort to regain my position as a teller of truth, I’m going to give you all the benefit of some background, so sit down, grab a glass of iced tea, and get comfy.

Long long ago, back before time, I grew up in East Tennessee, and while this was indeed southern, we weren’t really troubled by bugs.  In fact, we made money off of them.  I tell you this, so that you’ll understand that I’m not intrinsically biased against flying insects – quite the contrary.

Each summer Mrs. L, who lived at the end of the lane, would make several dozen butterfly nets out of old curtain material and hand them out to all of us children.  We, in turn, would tuck them away until evening, when dusk would arrive.  At this point, we would all, including Mrs. L, run around like completely deranged individuals until the street lights came on that being the universal signal in our old neighborhood for “It’s time to come in and bathe before going to bed.”

As we ran, we would scoop as many lightning bugs (fireflies) as we could into our butterfly nets.   The street lights would pop on, and we would retreat to our homes, where we would pick the lightning bugs from our nets, place them in specially marked jars and milk cartons, and put them in our individual family’s freezer.  Here they would remain until the end of the week.

Saturday morning, much to Father’s chagrin, we would awaken quite early, because this was the day on which we would be paid.  Having breakfasted to the sound of our toes tapping impatiently beneath the kitchen table, he would load the three oldest of us girls into the car and haul us and our milk cartons of frozen lightning bugs to the collection center.  Here two teenage boys would pour the frozen bounty into measuring cups and pay us a quarter for each hundred lightning bugs that we had caught.

Believe it or not, this activity went on for many summers and probably supported the two movie theaters and several teenager hangouts in town.  The insects?  Oh, they were being used by some scientists at one of the labs located in a neighboring valley for research to determine just what allowed them to light up.

Why it was important for this information to be known, I couldn’t have told you at the time, but if you want to learn some fascinating scientific information, part of which was discovered because of our efforts, you can go here.  Who knew that the little buggers could be so very useful?  I certainly didn’t when I was catching them for fun and profit, and I’m not sure I would’ve cared.

As a much younger child, while still living in The Double as our family referred to the duplex we shared with my paternal grandmother and great-aunt, I had be encouraged each spring to watch for the fireflies by the older generation that lived in the other side.

“We didn’t have fireflies like these to watch back in England,” my grandmother would share with my sister and me.

“That’s right.”  My great-aunt would nod her head in agreement.  “We never saw magical insects like these until after we had made our way through Ellis Island.”

Needless to say, both of these elderly women, who had been born and raised in Victorian England, were appalled when they saw my sister and me chasing after these same insects a few years later.  Still, having survived the Depression, they both understood the value of profit and soon capitulated.  After all, England had done just fine without the tiny bugs, but everyone could use a bright, shiny quarter.

I learned several things during the course of my first money making endeavor: chasing after flying insects is hard work, my first bar of Yardley’s lavender soap would cost me two weeks’ worth of chasing, and there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gotten from earning something you want.

What I never have learned is whether or not lightning bugs are unknown throughout the British Isles or if this was merely true in the area where my grandmother and great-aunt lived until they immigrated.  Perhaps, one of you who live across the Great Pond can fill me in.  After all, I may be a tired older woman, but I’m still not too old to learn a new fact or two.

Until I hear back from my overseas friends, though, I’m going to sit out on the patio on balmy summer evenings and enjoy Nature’s light show.  Won’t you join me?

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

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When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

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2 Responses to A Tired Older Woman Chases The Lights

  1. We don’t have fireflies in the UK 🙁 The only time I’ve seen them was on holiday in Kuala Lumpur. There’s a hotel there that specialises in night time boat rides so you can see them.

    • Annie says:

      Clare – Neat! You answered a small mystery that I’ve carried around for a lifetime! Thanks so much! Annie

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