Bully Pulpit: Ladybug Love

Tim GilmerYesterday I saved the life of a drunken ladybug. It was one of hundreds I have rescued, but the first that had turned to the bottle as a way of dealing with despair. Well, not exactly the bottle. I found her teetering on the rim of a shot glass that was lined with a sticky residue of Triple Sec. By the precarious way she was standing, it was evident she was in trouble. So I took her outside, shot glass and all, and helped her on to a bench on the porch. She stood there for a moment, dazed, and then started walking around in circles, dragging her feet.

This spring has been difficult on the farm. Oregon is not known for abundant sunshine, but this season has been particularly wet, cool and sunless. An unusually large contingent of ladybugs took up residence inside the east-facing wall of our old farmhouse, waiting for winter to leave so they could crawl out of the walls and go back to work keeping watch over acres of lettuce, tomatoes and other organic crops. Don’t ask me how they get inside the walls. It’s a mystery. But somehow hundreds of them end up trapped inside the old sash windows, crawling the glass. They tend to congregate in my office upstairs.

My wife, who can reach higher than I can, opens the windows, plucks them carefully from the glass and places them outside on the roof. Exposed suddenly to the cold spring, they are stunned by the change in temperature. Some of them die, but trapped inside the window with no food, death is a certainty. No doubt the one I rescued from the rim of the shot glass saw what was happening to her compatriots, so she hitched a ride on my wheelchair, unbeknownst to me, and braved the journey at day’s end down the dark shaft to the lower story, then held on for dear life while I made for the liquor cabinet in the pantry. The lack of sun has been tough on me, too.

Here on the farm we have a policy of helping our employees however we can. Ladybugs, among our most valued workers, are treated with respect. An organic farm is worthless without them. One summer long ago I invited a group of children from our church to come to our farm and release ladybugs on our tomato crop. I had purchased thousands of ladybugs and kept them in a dormant state in the refrigerator. When the children reached into their little bags and scooped up the shiny red creatures and placed them on leaves and stems in the sunlight, they instantly began acting like ladybugs. That was the first year that a sizable group of them decided to overwinter in the walls of our hundred-year-old farmhouse.

They keep coming back, generation after generation.

I wonder what it would be like to love our jobs so much, to be so dedicated to our employers, that we would be willing to work for nothing more than food and sex.

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