Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Sept. 1, 2007.
WORTHINGTON — When we got up this morning it was September. I think I always believed September and October bring the fairest days of every year. I have (truth — just quietly, to myself) enjoyed a New Year celebration each Sept. 1.
In our time, September is more nearly the beginning of a new year than is January. On (or about) Sept. 1, the kids go back to school and churches resume normal schedules. Vacation days are past for most of us and the usual routine of work days is restored, the normal schedule for many club meetings and committee meetings resumes. Television is programmed for a new year beginning with September.
I review all this, my good friend, because I want to wish you a Happy New Year. Enjoy today. Have a new-crop apple.
I have another thought about September that will make you turn away from these words and continue on to the next page. When September comes, frost cannot be far behind. This year, more than is sometimes the case, I have been looking forward to frost. I will tell you about this.
I have two flower beds, in particular, where tomato vines are now shooing aside petunias and moss roses. A month ago, when the grass was brown and the earth was dry, I was out each morning with a sprinkling can, watering the tomatoes, watering all the plants. Grass along the edge of the flower beds continued green. I suppose it was benefiting from the water for the flowers. That grass also was getting long. I wasn’t mowing.
This is introduction to what came to be.
I sat down to watch the Twins one evening. First week in August. I felt an itch on a leg, and then I felt another itch. As I got ready for bed — I could not believe this. I had mosquito bites on my legs, and they were not merely mosquito bites. They were brilliant red welts. A couple of them were half the size of a dime. I never had mosquito bites to compare with these.
Where did they come from? Where was I to get mosquito bites?
I can only think they came as I stood with the sprinkling can and perhaps with one foot in that tall grass. Mosquitoes must have flown up my pants legs. Truth. I never felt them. I never felt a bite. There was no mistaking that I was mosquito-bitten.
I wondered how those bites came to be so big and fierce. Maybe these are reactions to mosquitoes that come with age. I never have been this old before. Or maybe — this thought scared me a bit — maybe we are getting mosquitoes we never had before.
I did some poking around the Internet. I learned Indiana, like Minnesota, has about 50 different kinds of mosquitoes year by year — 28 different varieties that will feed on human blood. Earlier this summer, Indiana researchers said they found two “new kinds” of mosquitoes, both of Asian origin, which never were found in Indiana before.
I could see no reports on new mosquito varieties in Minnesota or Iowa, but I would not be surprised to learn this is what we are contending with — new kinds of mosquitoes for which we have no immunity.
I did learn Minnesota has had 24 cases of West Nile fever transmitted by mosquitoes through mid-August. Lyon County (Marshall) reported one case. South Dakota — what is this? — 81 cases of West Nile fever, three deaths.
It has ever been so. Lewis and Clark started up the Missouri River, toward the site where Sioux City would be — toward our land. Capt. Lewis wrote, “Our trio of pests still invade and obstruct us on all occasions, these are Musquetoes, eye knats and pricky pears, equal to any three curses that ever poor Egypt laboured under…” Be grateful; we no longer are troubled by the eye knats and the pricky pears.
Later, Capt. Clark reported mosquitoes so numerous “it was impossible to rest or sleep.”
I presently am hunkering down indoors, behind screens.
I want to take one more opportunity to wish you a happy new year.
Not only this, but I hope all your mosquitoes will freeze soon.