My sister and I were obnoxiously good children for the most part. There was the occasional hiccough, but for the most part we did as we were told, were quiet and respectful, and we were both super excited about learning new things. Seriously, we were the biggest goody two shoes on the planet! We had our little acts of rebellion, but when I think about them now, I’m always shocked at how innocent they were. My dad always claimed to be scared of moose (he’s not really), so we would run around the house with our hands on our heads (our antlers!) screaming “Moose! Mooooooose!” as our dad ran away “in terror:”
We thought this was HIL-AR-IOUS! I also figured out that there was no Santa when I was about 5 years old and told my sister (I had irrefutable proof!), but we pretended to believe in Santa for several more years to “trick Mom and Dad!” He he! We were so sneaky! And my dad had this little song, a campfire song that we learned on one of those children’s sing-along cassettes, that he claimed he had to dance to every time he heard it. We’d sing it over and over and over to make him dance. And over and over and over… He probably regretted that one.
There was one thing we did that was actually a little mean though. My dad had this personal vendetta against particular insects and spiders in his home. When we lived in Arizona, we had a lot of black widows around our house. He was worried that his young girls were going to get bitten (and honestly, he was right to be worried – we NEVER looked before we put our hands in/on/under things!), so he’d go on a weekly seek and destroy mission in our yard. When we moved to Colorado, he became rather obsessed with flies, stalking through the house with the fly swatter in hand and a crazy glint in his eye as he tracked and killed the many, many flies that ended up in the house. (I can’t confirm or deny it, but two people under the age of 10 may have left the back door open all the time, leading to the eventual formation of my dad’s classic summer phrase: “Close the door! You’re letting the flies in!”) We had this enormous vaulted ceiling in our living room, so sometimes the flies would buzz around his head and then settle just out of reach above him. It drove him nuts! And my sister and I used this to our advantage!
On the upper floor of our house, we had this completely useless little room that had no door and half a wall on two sides. You could look out over the top of the half walls into the living room and dining room. It just so happened that my dad spent a few hours each day reading the newspaper in his chair in the living room, and his chair was right below you if you looked out over the half wall:
My sister and I had our bedrooms on the upper floor of the house, so we spent a lot of time up there looking over the edge. Eventually, we came up with the most brilliant form of torture ever using the half wall and our dad’s hatred of flies: fly torture.
Fly torture was pretty simple. First, we’d draw flies on little squares of paper. These were the “flies” of fly torture. Then we’d punch a little hole in the top of the paper, slide some thread through the hole, and tie it at the top. Then it was a simple matter of lowering the “flies” over the wall, unwinding thread from the spools, onto our unsuspecting father below:
When they landed on his head, we’d jerk the threads up and down, mimicking a fly crawling around on his hair. Sometimes we’d lower them down next to his head and then jerk the thread over so that the “fly” would smack into his cheek or temple, similarly to how the flies would occasionally bump into him as they meandered about the house. In either case, he’d raise a hand up to swat the “fly” away, so we’d pull the thread up a bit to make him think he’d scared it off. When he went back to reading, we’d lower the “flies” back down and do it again. Every time he’d swat it away. We did it over and over, stifling our laughter as we watched our dad mindlessly swat at our flies. It was unbelievably difficult to keep the laughter in and I’m still not sure how we managed.
It took our dad about 15 minutes to realize what was going on. I think he eventually grabbed the thread on one of the flies and then looked up and saw us standing there, arms draped over the wall with incriminating spools of thread in our hands. We nearly died laughing! Our dad thought it was hilarious that we’d come up with this activity on our own, so we deemed it a huge success.
We waited a month or so, then we did it again. It took our dad a little less time to realize what was going on, but enough that we were still pleased with ourselves. Another month went by and we did it again. Then again. And again. We did it over and over, even improving our fly design to avoid detection as long as possible. Eventually, I noticed that every time a fly landed on our dad’s head, he’d look up to see if my sister and I were above him with our thread. We actually conditioned our dad! It took a few years for him to go back to mindlessly swatting at flies without looking up for us too.
So that’s fly torture, the only good thing that ever came of that stupid little room with the half walls in our house in Colorado. Fly torture worked because we’d watched our dad struggle against the flies we let in the house by leaving the back door open and we knew how he’d respond. We’d also seen enough flies to know how they moved and could mimic their motions to some extent with our paper flies. It was a rather mean thing to do, at least after the first few times when our dad still thought it was cute and funny. But we loved it, and now it’s one of my favorite childhood memories.
The moral of the story is this: Pay attention to insect behavior! You never know when it will come in handy. :)
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