Ants

My dad built the house I grew up in right smack in the middle of a flood plain on about an acre of land. He had the builders bring in piles and piles of dirt to build up the area where the house was to be built, and then had them dig back down to the original ground level in order to stabilize the foundation. I suppose it worked well…the house is still there and hasn’t shifted at all in the past 34 years.

About 30-40 feet from the back of the house is a small (but pretty deep) bayou. (Here’s a way to keep yourself occupied sometime if you’re in the South. Ask as many people as you can how to say “bayou” and count how many different pronunciations you hear.) Out by the cul-de-sac there is a ditch that runs past the front of the house and along the right hand side (if you’re facing the house) until it connects with the bayou behind. We also dug another ditch to the bayou on the opposite side of the house in order to drain a low spot in the yard. So essentially, the house is surrounded on all sides by either ditches or the bayou.

I grew up about about 30-45 minutes (depends on who’s driving) from Galveston. Being that close to the coast, I’ve seen my fair share of rain through the years. I’ve sat through several tropical storms and just some very heavy rain that has blown in off of the coast, and through it all, the only water that has ever gotten into my parents’ house was one winter when the pipes busted and another time when a tree fell on the roof.

Because what happens when it rains a lot is that the house turns in to an island.

The bayou fills up. Then the ditches fill up. Then the water starts backing up into the yard, and before too long all you can see from a distance is a house that looks like it’s in the water. The highest the water has ever been was ankle deep on the front porch. I know it was ankle deep because I was sitting on the front porch watching it rain during a tropical storm…and the water came up to my ankles before it quit rising. Man, I keep making myself sound more and more exciting don’t I?

It wasn’t just our yard that flooded during very heavy rains. All of the yards on our end of the road flooded as well. My parents would let me go out after the rain stopped and play in the water. My mom taught me about currents…how they may not look bad on the surface but they can be very swift under water. At its deepest part, the water could get up over my head. I’m six feet tall.

When I was in junior high, I had an inflatable raft that we used to take to float on the river when we went to the hill country to see my grandparents. Once, after some heavy rainfall, I asked my mom if I could go to the neighbor’s house about 3 acres away and float back home in my raft. She was okay with it, so I waded down the street, pulling my rubber raft behind me.

All was well as I journeyed back to my house. And then it happened…

Did you know you can’t drown a mound of fire ants? If a mound gets flooded, the members of the colony join together and float on top of the water until they find something dry to land on. Then they swarm.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this. I tried to avoid the ant raft, but my reaction time was too slow. As I watched the ants swarm the front of my raft, I made a quick decision to abandon ship. I jumped out of the water (it was only a little over knee deep) and tried to splash as many of the freeloaders off of my boat as I could. Just to be safe, I walked the rest of the way home and pulled the raft behind me. I was sad because of the way my trip had ended and because I accidentally poked a hole in my raft.

I thought about this today as I was mowing the grass. We haven’t had any substantial rain at my current house since July 4th, and we need some badly. But not too much. I don’t want my kids getting any ideas about trying to float around in the water.