Attack of the Blood Thirsty Black Flies

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Most of us couldn’t stomach the ferry ride to Pelee Island. It was nighttime, and Lake Erie was white-capped. Grandma regretted her sugary snack and cup of coffee. Her eyes fixed on the bottom of a bag, and the contents of her stomach followed. The boys returned from the bow, soaked head to toe.

The next day, we awoke at our beachfront rental to sunny skies and still pretty big waves. We swam, diving into the breaking waves all morning. Then, we noticed swimming companions peeking out from the water, shooting from waves, and doing wild wrapping rituals on the beach. They were Lake Erie Water Snakes, an endangered species, but you wouldn’t have known that from looking around. That ended the swimming for the day!

Pelee Island was perfect for bicycle riding an afternoon away, so we decided to do that. Our destination was an old lighthouse built in 1834. Before we set out, we all took turns spraying each other with bug repellent.

“I swear they’re biting me more after I put the repellent on than before,” I complained to my wife.

She said it was my imagination. Maybe it was.

It was time to go and Grandma, my mom, zoomed ahead. She lives life like she’s forever 12.

“Why doesn’t Grandma have to wear a bicycle helmet?” asked my 12-year-old daughter.

“Just ride,” several of us sighed.

My niece was not very good at riding a bicycle, unlike her daredevil little brother. So, the pack broke in two. I kept pace with my daughter, son, and nephew. My mom stayed back – much as she loved riding fast with a huge grin and wild eyes – with my niece, wife, sister, and brother-in-law. My niece wiped out every quarter mile or so. But the fractured pack kept moving down the road toward a trailhead that would feed into the beach leading to the lighthouse.

I kept getting bit by black flies. No one else noticed, so I gutted it out and continued. I had no choice. It was more of a nuisance than anything else. Nearly two miles into the ride, there was a considerable gap between my group of kids and my niece’s group of adults. A black fly bit me so damn hard I nearly jackknifed my bike. Another bite and another and another followed it.

I was miserable.

It turned out that I was no longer the only one being bitten. My daughter and nephew were ahead of my son and me. They slowed down because the black flies grew thicker and thicker. We pressed on a little further, hoping to blow through the swarm. By the time we reached the end of the road and the beginning of the trailhead, we were engulfed in a cloud of black flies. My daughter was hurting out loud, my son had no filter as he shrieked from the constant biting, and my little nephew suffered in silence. I yelled at the flies. It was all I could do before we turned around and tried to flee. My daughter was the fastest out of there. I hung back with the two young boys. They needed to keep both hands on their handlebars and that kept them from swatting at the meat-eating flies. The swarm was so thick, and the bites so ferocious that my son was bleeding. I considered maybe it was my scent since I had attracted them long before anyone else even noticed. I told the boys to ride ahead and follow my daughter.

Once they were well ahead, I rode like the wind to escape the misery. But the misery was glued to me. As it turned out, the flies never left the boys, either, nor my daughter for that matter. When the four of us flew past the slower-paced riders, headed in the opposite direction, the kids were screaming in pain – except for my silent nephew – from the constant biting. As the slower group described to us later, when we flew past them, our white shirts looked black, and we resembled a bad Pig-Pen scene from the Peanuts comic strip. As for me, they reported that I looked just like a bee-keeper blanketed in bees. The black cloud stuck to me no matter where I went. As I rode past the slower group, I yelled to turn around, but it was too late. The flies swarmed them, too, unbeknownst to me because I had the boys to worry about. My daughter was too far ahead for me to have any immediate concerns.

It was sheer terror for about two miles. At some point, my wife left her slower group and caught up with us, which was typical of a mother needing to protect her young.

I had to make the painful decision to have the boys stop their bicycles a couple of times to shake and swat the flies away. Their desperate eyes said I should be protecting them; why couldn’t I protect them?

After a while, I said, “Just ride! The only way this will stop is by getting back to the house.”

It was awful not being able to help them. Both boys were downright scared. My son yelled out loud. My nephew had horror in his eyes but never said a peep. I could tell he was traumatized. They both rode and rode because there was no alternative. They looked to me for help, but there was nothing I could do except emphasize that the only way to make it stop was to get back, so ride-ride-ride!

Finally, we got back, shook the flies off, and ran inside to safety. I looked down the road to see how far back the others were. That’s when my sister skidded across the lawn, jumped from her bike before it stopped, and sped off in her car. It happened in a blur.

Because my niece couldn’t ride a bike very far under normal conditions, she was being eaten alive along with everyone in her group. She was in hysterics by the time the rescue vehicle brought her back.

An hour later, small amounts of blood were wiped from the fair-skinned youngsters. Medicine was applied, and tears began to dry. We sat around the room overlooking the beach and lake, completely drained from the experience.

My niece joined us. She was washed up and wrapped in a large towel for comfort.

Since I wasn’t with her on the ride, I said, “Tell me about your awesome bike ride.”

Her bottom lip puffed out as she softly replied, “I fell down a hill, got scraped, and got eaten by flies.”

“So it was fun,” I teased.

“No,” she said sheepishly.

“Was it kind of fun?” Grandma asked.

She looked through sad eyes with that puffy lip expression and faintly said, “Yes.”

The room erupted in laughter because we all knew this was an incredibly unusual experience we’d not soon forget.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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