Thursday, January 3, 2008
Uncle Milton's Ant Farm!
Sometimes I miss having an ant farm. You know the kind I mean, the now-classic one with a green plastic frame and white sand for the ants to tunnel through.
I can understand why some folks would find it grotesque, deliberately keeping large numbers of insects in your house, no matter how hermetically sealed/contained they may be. But I was fascinated as a kid. I loved having my own little world that I could hold in my hands!
The ant farm was one of those instant gratification toys: live ants usually went to work, immediately, digging holes and tunnels, as soon as they were dropped into the farm. I thought it was much more satisfying than Sea Monkeys, which were a gyp because they were not humanoid creatures with bright smiling faces, and the female sea monkeys did not have tufts of blonde hair and little hair ribbons, as they were falsely advertised in the comic books. Yes, I'm still bitter about that pig-in-a-poke!
Uncle Milton's Ant Farm was true to his advertising word (despite the fact that the packaging usually displays a smiling farmer ant dressed in overalls and a straw hat). If you had one, you'll remember that you had the choice of either capturing your own ants in your yard, or you could receive a small, plastic vial of red ants in the mail.
I know that they are just "bugs" to most people, but I always felt kind of sorry for the ants that I had mail ordered. I imagined them being plucked from their familiar home and then being transported for days in a tiny, plastic prison, pitch-black dark for most of the journey and with little to no food.
Less than a decade ago, I had tried one of the new, "space-age" ant farms. Instead of white sand, it was filled with a blue-tinted clear gel. The gel was supposed to be infused with nutrients and supply ants with both food and water. The ants that I put in the gel-filled frame all died within less than a month.
Stupid futuristic ant farm!
Ants are a good lesson in perseverance. I had spilled my ant farm in the bedroom, once, when I was about twelve. I scooped up as much white sand as I could, and most of the ants, into an empty glass jar. I was going to eventually transfer them back into the ant farm, but the ants wasted no time in digging out a new home.
This image has stayed in my mind for what it means to "get right back on that horse when you fall off."