My mother told me that the blackflies hatch out on Memorial Day weekend at our cabin in Northern Maine.
That’s Mattaseunk Lake in Molunkus, Maine, to be exact, about 7 hours north of here (Cape Cod).
Other than bad memories of fast-moving black clouds of dread that sent me hand-swishing and running full tilt in the other direction - and having to wear a head net for the better part of June as a kid - I’d forgotten about the tiny, biting, blood-extracting monsters.
Mom said the mosquitoes hatch at the same time and that we’d better bring bug repellent.
I don’t like bug repellent. I don’t like anything on my skin.
Thom being from New Jersey and with limited experience with Maine, took his cues from me so we nixed the bug repellent. We did bring a couple of loose-fitting head nets, just in case.
The day before Memorial Day was perfect and I was heartened. Mom was wrong! The night was good too, with about 5 whining mosquitoes over the course of the night, allowing us to sleep long and comfortably in the silence of the woods. We made plans to jack up the tilted shed the next day and I had spotted some fabulous ferns destined for a Cape Cod garden that I planned to dig up.
And then, Memorial Day hit.
It didn’t come…it hit, bringing with it all the blackflies and freshly hatched mosquitoes released from the depths of hell and starving for blood.
Shocked, we donned our head nets and bravely headed outside to jack up the shed. The shed didn't especially want to be jacked up, and the process wasn't going smoothly.
Thom, as with most men, lacks hips that are helpful in holding up a pair of pants. I observed this, while being reminded of a well-known American mantra to try to get kids off drugs. I hoped the blackflies would indeed “say no to crack,” but they proceeded, undaunted, with their terrible mission while an army of mosquitoes assisted.
Tom eventually gave up the slapping routine and ran to the camp while I ran to the ferns. The ferns weren’t anxious to move to Cape Cod and resisted me for a good half hour, enough time for the blackflies to get into my loosened head net to chew on my face and neck along with my wrists and ankles.
After a horrid night with troops of mosquitoes that forced us to make a tent under the sheets, we went out in search of better head nets. After all, we had the entire leaking roof to cover with roof paper as a stop-gap, pre-reroofing measure before heading back to the Cape.
The manager at the lumber store had no idea where one could buy a head net. He’d “given blood” on Memorial Day too, he said, but then, he gets used to it. I later heard that my brother, two hours further north, had experienced the same low-hanging pants problem as Thom and he also gave his part to the continuance of the blackfly species.
We eventually found better head nets and some strong repellent…that I applied freely to both of us. Nary a bug bothered us on the roof all afternoon. Or maybe they were just afraid of heights.
Tom scratched for days. I scratched for weeks. The ferns are still looking lush in a shady Cape garden and we hear that the cabin is dry. The shed is as we left it, half sunk and half raised. The bulk of the bugs leave by July 4th so it’s safe to return to camp…or so says Mom who seems to know all things. Mom says the bullfrogs eat them up. Maybe she’s right. She has been right before.