Thursday, September 2, 2010

Land of 10,000 mosquitos

Everyone thinks Minnesota is known for its 10,000 lakes.

Wrong. It's 10,000 mosquitos.

And they are all out this year. Revved up and ready to suck blood. I don't think I've ever seen them so thick and so thirsty.

But then, wait. I do remember...

It was the summer of 1968. My father-in-law had purchased a pop-up camper and invited us to use it. My then-husband's aunt and uncle were going camping in northern Minnesota, and suggested we come stay at a spot next to theirs while they were there. It sounded like great fun.

My husband's younger brother, Darrell, decided he'd like to join us. There was plenty of room in the camper and we welcomed his company. So the three of us adults and two-year old daughter, Kristie, went off on our weekend adventure.

We arrived at the campground and went about setting up the camper. Kristie delighted Uncle Paul and Aunt Alice with her antics of jumping off a stool and then clapping her hands and exclaiming, "Yay, goodie!" The more everyone laughed, the more times she jumped off the stool.

It was a hot and humid evening as we all shared in a sandwich supper. When dusk arrived, we built a campfire. So far, so good.

But then we all adjourned to our own beds in our own campers, snuggled in to our sleeping bags, and turned off our flashlights.

Buzzzzz, buzzzzz, bite, bite! All of a sudden, the three of us adults were swatting and slapping, and Kristie was crying. We turned on the flashlights and there were at least a million mosquitos, at least, flitting about the camper. One of the guys checked all the openings to make sure everything was snapped shut and tight; the other swatted mosquitos swarming all over the camper; and I settled Kristie down, checking her for bites.

We found one of the openings had come loose, thereby providing the mosquitos with an invitation to come in. When we thought we had it remedied, and all the mosquitos in the camper were very dead, we turned off the flashlights to try again for some sleep and some relief.

Wrong again.

Buzzzzz, buzzzzz, bite, bite! The mosquitos came back full-throttle and it seemed they had summoned all their relatives to come join in the feast.

This time we were all bitten again, and had lost any shred of humor we may have had earlier. I'm sure I was the least patient and the most crabby.

Again, we checked the openings; again we swatted mosquitos; again I settled my toddler, checking her for bites.

Then as we were looking up with the flashlight, we saw it. A tear in the mesh netting toward the ceiling that provided air to the camper.

We didn't know of a way to repair the tear. There was nothing to stuff it with, and no way to keep anything in place. Overtired, out of ideas for a solution, and out of patience, we decided to abandon our camp and head for the nearest town to check into a motel. Any motel.

We pooled our pocket change (refer to earlier "Pinching pennies" post) and came up with enough for all of us to share a room. We fell into the motel beds exhausted. But oh, the relief of a night's sleep without mosquitos.

Except for all of us, almost in unison: itch, itch, scratch, scratch.