Tumbling Tumblebugs

It’s oddly not hot here in southeastern Texas. It’s even odder that I would say it’s not hot. The temperature is running mid to upper 90’s every day. But in contrast to most of the country, that’s practically chilly.

We slid about 20 feet and started a second hole last week. We’ve been in the same spot for so long, home construction is beginning to take place on our front lawn. In all of the time I’ve been in Texas, I still haven’t seen a Tumbling Tumbleweed but we do have quite a number of Tumbling Tumblebugs.

They tumble on our pretend grass carpet. The above photo and the following facts are taken from an article by Howard Garret, The Dirt Doctor.

Tumblebugs roll manure into balls as large or larger than themselves. Female adults lay eggs in the balls and bury them to supply food for the larvae. Some adults dig burrows below the dung piles. Most dung beetles roll the dung in balls some distance from the piles.

It took this Tumblebug a little while to find its target to tumble.

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A single egg is laid in each dung ball. The larvae hatch and feed on the manure. The male helps in preparing the nest for the larvae. This is the only known case among insects where the male aids in providing for the young.

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You know, fathers just have a way of putting everything together. ~ Erika Cosby

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The dung beetles aren’t burying the poop as a favor to us and the cows. They are storing it for food and to provide a place for their eggs to hatch to be food for their larvae.

This completely dismantles the widely held theory of altruistic beetles. Ours got off to such a promising start and then got side tracked.

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The ancient Egyptians worshiped them. The “sacred scarab” can still be found in Egypt and surrounding countries. To the Egyptians, ball rolling symbolized the daily movement of the sun. The tomb of King (Tutankhamen) contained a pendant depicting the sun-god Ra as a scarab beetle rolling the sun across the sky. We don’t need to worship these lowly poop rollers, but they are magnificent creatures deserving of our respect.

Well, alrighty then…

Back to our Tumblebugs. This one came back but just couldn’t seem to quite hit it’s stride.

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I have a little garden That I’m cultivating lard in, As the things I eat are rather tough and dry: For I live on toasted lizards, Prickly pears, and parrot gizzards, And I’m really very fond of beetle-pie. ~ Charles Edward Carryl

Mr Carryl’s Robinson Crusoe would find no shortage of lizards and prickly pears here. He might have to substitute buzzards for parrots. As for the beetle pie, he’d do well to remember Minny and The Terrible Awful!

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The Help

The gate is fairly quiet tonight. I fixed my breakfast around 11 p.m. and turned on the TV. The clip that was playing was a trailer for the movie, The Help.

Typically behind the times, I’m writing about The Help after most of you have probably already read the book or seen the movie. This isn’t a review and I haven’t seen the movie. I’m a gate guard, I don’t see movies until they come to Direct TV. And since, even on TV,  you have to buy new releases, the only one I’ve spent $4.99 on in 9 months was The King’s Speech, which I did enjoy, but that’s not what this post is about.

The Help, if you don’t already know, is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963. I was small and so was my world in the summer of 1963.  I lived in the tiny town of Middlebury, Indiana, which was a about a million miles from Jackson, and where racial diversity meant we had a lot of horse and buggies tied up at the hitching post just down the street from our house.

I might have been able to tell you where Mississippi was because I loved my map puzzle, but I couldn’t have told you anything about the climate, weather or political.

I read The Help almost a year ago, before all the buzz and before the movie. So while I can’t speak to the movie, I can tell you how the book affected me.

Although it’s a work of fiction, the historical references aren’t. I still find it to be stunning that all this was happening in my lifetime. I was completely oblivious. We did watch Walter Cronkite every night, but I guess at age 6, I wasn’t paying very close attention.

When I read the book, I kept thinking, surely this must have been a long, long time ago, when people still thought the world was flat.

But this isn’t really a post about that either. It’s about other lessons from the book that I wish I’d learned back in 1963, the summer before I started first grade.

Here’s the first one:

The first time I was ever called ugly, I was thirteen. It was by a rich friend of my brother Carlton’s over to shoot guns in the field.
‘Why you crying, girl?’ Constantine asked me in the kitchen.
I told her what the boy had called me, tears streaming down my face.
‘Well? Is you?’
I blinked, paused my crying. ‘Is I what?’
‘Now you look a here… ‘Ugly live up on the inside. Ugly be a hurtful, mean person. Is you one a them peoples?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t think so,’ I sobbed.
Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table. I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, something we both knew meant Listen. Listen to me.
‘Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.’ Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums. ‘You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’ ~  Kathryn Stockett

Most folks I know, in every age group, needed to hear that when they were growing up and maybe still need to hear it today. Ugly lives up on the inside. Ugly is a hurtful, mean person… Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you’re going to have to make this decision. You’re going to have to ask yourself, Am I going believe what these fools say about me today?

The second message I loved in the book that might even change the world if everyone heard it over and over and over and over when they were little:

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

Every child needs to hear that while they still are kind and before anyone makes them feel less than, for any reason. And we all need to hear it still.  There will always be those who didn’t get the message, who have ugly that lives up inside that will try to make you feel you’re ugly or not important.  So every morning, until you’re in the ground, get up, be kind, be smart and don’t believe them!

1963

1963 by Debbie

“Our thoughts are unseen hands shaping the people we meet. Whatever we truly think them to be, that’s what they’ll become for us.” ~R. Cowper

I’m currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I started reading it in Oregon and was pleasantly surprised to find that the little library in Three Rivers carried it. The book was recommended by another woman who worked for the same boss in Utah that I worked for in OR. The conversation about the book came up during a particularly difficult time at the Resort. Her quip was: “You’ll love it, the underdog wins.”

Our mutual ‘boss’ is undeniably a social and religious elitist. I can say that without reservations, not only because I know it to be true, but because I believe he would consider it a compliment. Because of the recommendation and from the title alone, I began reading with a mindset of being one of the mistreated/under-appreciated ‘help’ and was looking forward to the promise of winning in the end.

The setting is Mississippi, 1962-63. The story revolves around a group of young upper-class women, most graduates from ‘Ole Miss.’ and their “help”. The focus is primarily on the experiences of the black women who had no options but to work as maids, from their early teens on.

Stockett, the author, was raised in Jackson Mississippi. Her family had a black maid. She writes much of the book from the fictional perspective of a young white woman attempting to represent the life of the black women around her.

Stockett says: “I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960’s. I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand. But trying to understand is vital to our humanity.”

The time period was chosen, certainly, for it’s volatility. It was the time of the shooting of Medgar Evans, of Martin Luther King marches, a time period when the Jim Crowe laws were unquestioned in most of the south, certainly in Mississippi.

1963 was the year I began first grade in the tiny town of Middlebury, Indiana. On November 22nd of that year, C.S Lewis died before I ever got to write him a thank you letter for the innumerable ways his writings would eventually change my thinking and my heart. I remember that because he died on the day we were all sent home from because the President had been shot.

I recently read this quote by J.B. Phillips:
“Most people, naturally, have a somewhat restricted view of life, and they rely to a far larger extent than they realize on the vicarious experience of life to be found in books, films, and plays. Few of us, for example, have known at all intimately a detective, a dress-designer, a circus-proprietor, a pugilist, or a Harley Street specialist. Yet a skillful writer can make us feel that we have entered the very hearts and lives of these, and many other, people. Almost without question we add what we have read or seen to the sum total of what we call our “experience.” The process is also most entirely automatic, and probably most of us would be greatly shocked if it could suddenly be revealed to us how small a proportion of our accumulated “knowledge of the world” is due to first-hand observation and experience.”

In 1963, I had never heard of C.S. Lewis, I had virtually no knowledge of our 35th president and I’d never seen a black person. Since then I’ve read books and watched films and plays. But certainly, I’ll never begin to understand what it meant to be “the help” in the 60’s in the south. And how incredibly audacious of me to, for even an instant, put myself, if only in fleeting thoughts, in the same category. This book, these issues may lead to several other applications. For today, I’m narrowing it down to my need for an equal portion of humility and gratitude.

“If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other source of prejudice before noon.” ~George Aiken