When I first moved to the prairie from the island where I grew up in Washington State, I admit that I didn’t make the adjustment very well. I compared. And I know you’re not supposed to compare. But it was hard not to miss the ocean and the mountains and the blackberries that ran rampant all summer in our backyard.
One thing I didn’t miss, however — and I challenge anyone to admit that they do — is slugs. That’s right. Slugs. Sure, we have slugs here from time to time. Itty bitty ones that hide in the lettuce. In Washington, slugs are as common as mosquitos are here. Well, almost as common. There are brown slugs and black slugs and yellowish-green slugs and greenish-black slugs (we called them Banana Slugs) and each one is about six inches long.
You find them in the grass and you find them under leaves and you find them on sidewalks and you find them in your garden. About the only place I never found a slug was on the beach. Slugs are slimy and gross and are most easily killed by liberally salting them (a task which I enjoyed). This dries them out and leaves shriveled slug bodies all over your lawn.
One day when I was at my friend Kathleen’s house, her mother came up with a job for us to do. “Go over to your uncle’s and get the six pack of beer from his fridge,” she told Kathleen. “We’ll use it to bait the slugs.”
I had never heard of such a thing, but it wasn’t that which worried me. I looked at Kathleen with wide eyes, “Won’t we be arrested if the police catch us carrying beer?” I whispered.
She shrugged. “It’s not very far. Probably no one will see us.”
We walked the block and a half to Kathleen’s uncle’s house, two innocent, non-beer-carrying girls. Our route took us right along North Beach Road, where typically police cars could be found more often than any place else on the island. We reached the house, went inside, and Kathleen grabbed the beer.
I was so nervous, I was shaking. Kathleen held the partial six-pack by the plastic connector – the kind of clear plastic menace that killed all those ducks in the '80’s. I was about to suggest that maybe we should run, when, to my horror, I looked up to see a police car approaching.
Visions of using my one allotted phone call from jail to call my mom flashed before my eyes.
The policeman caught sight of us. My heart did a double flip. And then he waved, two-fingers, hands never leaving the wheel, and passed us by.
We turned onto Kathleen’s street. My heart was still pounding, certain that he’d turn around. We reached her house. Walked in the door. Handed her mom the evidence. And walked back outside. I breathed the free air, a hardened criminal escaping the noose.
“Get me that old bowl,” Kathleen’s mom called through the screen door. “The one in the shed.”
We brought her the bowl, she poured in the beer, and we set it on the ground for the slugs. Then we waited for them to be drawn to the scent of the alcohol where, when they’d climb into the bowl, they’d drown. I was a slug murderer and a beer-carrying hoodlum all in the same day.
It was a lot for a girl to take.
Not too long after that, I was babysitting the neighbor boy and we were taking a walk through his front yard. There, beneath a pine tree, we found a slug.
“Gross,” I said.
He looked up at me, disagreement written all over his small face. “Slugs are God’s creatures too,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say. How could I argue against that? I was pretty certain that slugs had come as a result of The Fall – surely they were Adam and Eve’s fault – but I figured he was a little young to comprehend such an argument.
So I kept my mouth shut. And considered that fact that possibly this little boy had a better attitude than I did about slugs. About nature. About God.
“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so…And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:24,25 NIV
Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is email@example.com.