Whitesburg KY

Pet slugs and lightning bugs

Points East

I saw at least two things last weekend that I’d never seen before.

Loretta and I went down to Mount Vernon to visit John and Celeste Edwards, hang out with their kids and see their new baby. John spent so much time at our house growing up that he calls us Mom and Pop. Almost three year-old Alyssa and six-year-old Johnna call us Grandma and Grandpa even though we only get to see them once a month or so.

So after the goo-goo-goooing and gaa-gaa-gaaainge were over with baby sister Shyanne, we were all out playing in the yard, picking cherries off their neighbor’s loaded trees, admiring more playground equipment than some schools have and otherwise hanging around. Alyssa trotted over holding something in cupped hands.

“What you got there, Sissy?” I asked.

“My pet,” she said and then held up to my face the longest, fattest, slimyest, ugliest, garden slug that I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’d never before seen a pet slug. Apparently my reaction registered some high degree of disgust but Alyssa simply shrugged her shoulders, headed for the sandbox and proceeded to build roads and tunnels for it. It was impossible for me to tell whether or not the slug was having a good time but I suggested to her father, who by then had laughed until he could hardly remain standing, that it would make good catfish bait.

Well before dark the sky clouded up and we began seeing lightning bugs (fireflies to you city types) emerge from the grass. It was still light enough to see the bugs themselves and dark enough to see the glow. Alyssa completely lost all interest in her slug which she had placed in a soda cup and set on the porch.

She found a jar and within minutes we were catching lightning bugs to put inside it. If you haven’t helped a child make a lightning bug lantern you haven’t really had much of a life as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure there are some bug huggers out there who consider this cruel, but I find it to be a fascinating exercise while thinning down the insect population at the same time – or at least making them earn their keep.

All at once a flock of at least a dozen robins flew into the yard. It still wasn’t dark enough for them to go to roost and they, too, began chasing the bugs and gulping them down as though they were the finest of delicacies. Now for some reason, seeing a robin eat a slug would not surprise me at all, but I had no idea they were so fond of lightning bugs. I certainly hadn’t seen it happen before.

No sooner had the birds flown in than Alyssa decided we should catch a robin and, to her credit she gave that some tremendous effort for a few minutes before deciding they were too fast and staring me down for not helping her.

“They’d eat your bugs if we caught one,” I told her. She eyed the jar, then the birds and considered the possibilities before finally deciding that she liked the bugs better. In fact she’d completely lost interest in the slug.

Before Loretta and I headed home to pit cherries, I took a glance in the cup. As I’d figured, John had done whatever daddies do with pet slugs when little girls have their backs turned. He was planning on doing some fishing and I would not be at all surprised if it is not now in a catfish’s belly.

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