Rambling on the Fly

September 1 is the official opening of fly season (not opening of THE fly). Sure, you can swat away with a cheap fly swatter, rolled up newspaper or your favorite monthly bill but September through the end of October is when you get your trusty high pressure salt weapon out of the gun safe and begin the saline safari. For those who may not be familiar with the modern sportsman’s carnage technique, these small plastic trinkets shoot a burst of air that propels a pinch of salt somewhere under the speed of sound. If the huntress or huntsman is worth their salt, a this pest of an insect finds itself before the Lord of the Flies seeking mercy in the afterlife.

This is the only prey that will find you; no hiding in a blind, sitting in a pit or using the mating call of the common house fly. Of course it helps your bag limit if you’re sitting on manure, roadkill or a copy of the New York Times. It is legal to gun them down when they’re grounded. The true aficionado will be adept at taking them “on the wing”; naturally you have to allow them to set their wings before blasting. Bag limit has varied over the years as well as possession limits. The old timers talk about the seasons of yore when they could take as many of these winged vermin as possible each day, and possession limit in the root cellar was two million.

Of course we can’t speak of this fall frenzy without mentioning ammo. The iodized vs. plain salt argument has gone on for a hundred years between members of the Swiss Guard. Most adhere to the “matching the gunpowder to the game” doctrine. A horse fly requires a little something extra; kosher salt is recommended for these larger targets. A good blue sea salt is the most versatile of all sodium chlorides. This load is known to be effective on fruit flies and even box elder bugs (caveat: when they are in season). Rock salt tends to foul your barrel and muzzle velocity here is measured by snail speed.

Variants in the laws of some states have caused understandable angst among pursuers of the musca domestica. New York and California Fish and Wildlife agencies have declared female flies off limit. The headache of sexing insects in flight is vexing. Pro advice is to avoid flies around mirrors; they are generally female. If you spy a fly looking lost but not asking for directions, it is certainly male. For the younger stalker with exceptionally eyesight, do not open fire on a fly carrying a purse; it could be a man purse but is a life sentence in Attica worth it? The imposition of transvestite flies makes you yearn for the old times of fly identification. A recent article in House and Fly magazine waxed philosophically about the existence of transgendered insects.

All of this is a bit of silliness; but isn’t that what we need? Even in prayer we can get so caught up in words, we forget to pray. Monastic founders of monasteries and convents knew that the bow string can be too taut and prone to snapping. Thus there were periods of walking and talking, relaxing the general rule of silence for a brief time. Concern about “what’s happening in our world today” has perennially come to light century after century and can threaten to drown the mind and heart with depression. Is there time for goofiness in our lives? If not, your soul may be too stretched. G.K. Chesterton wrote once that, “Humor is that which strikes the immortal soul as damn funny.” (it may be another author, but sounds like Chesterton)

Meanwhile, the buzzing of the wild calls!

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