“They’re totally destroying our beans and the strawberry plants,” he told Mom over our lunchtime sandwiches one Saturday. “I’ve been trying to keep them out of the tomatoes, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it.”
“Isn’t there something you can do about them?” Mom asked. She was mostly concerned about the tomatoes. I don’t think there was anything Mom savored as much as a vine-ripened tomato fresh from the garden.
“I think there’s a spray or something,” Dad said. “I’m going down to the garden center after lunch and see if they have any suggestions.”
I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. But what I heard was, “While I’m gone, why don’t you and George come up with your own plan for getting rid of the grasshoppers?”
And so that’s what we did. It was the summer between fifth and sixth grade, so we were feeling pretty smart and mature. We knew stuff – or at least, we thought we did. Certainly we knew how to get rid of a few measly grasshoppers.
“Grasshoppers are dumb,” George said as we stood in the middle of the garden. “Look at them. They jump right on you. It’s easy to catch them.” He reached down onto his pant leg and grabbed a grasshopper that was resting near his knee.
“And then what do we do with them?” I wanted to know.
George squeezed his fingers together, crushing the grasshopper into instant uckiness.
Well, that seemed simple enough – although I didn’t much care for the ucky part. So we came up with a few alternate methods of dispatching the little critters, including bricks, safety pins and his big brother’s magnifying glass. Eventually Ron and Don joined us and . . . well, things got a little crazy. Before we knew it we were conducting macabre experiments in grasshopper physiology. I won’t describe our experiments – this is, after all, a family newspaper. Let’s just call it “The Adventures of the Marquis de Orkin” and leave it at that, shall we?
Dad came home in time to see one of our more grotesque executions (remember the end of “Braveheart”? Yeah, it was kind of like that). We were laughing, but the laughter quickly turned to silence when we saw the look on my Dad’s face.
“What are you boys doing?” he asked, incredulously.
“We’re . . . you know . . . just sort of . . . um . . . helping to, uh, get rid of the grasshoppers,” I stammered.
“This isn’t ‘getting rid of grasshoppers,’” Dad said. “This is killing.”
I was confused. I looked at the can of insecticide that he was carrying. “But aren’t you going to kill grasshoppers with that?” I asked.
“Yes, because it’s something we need to do for the protection of our garden,” he said, soberly. “But I’m not going to enjoy it.”
I’ve been thinking about that the past couple of weeks, as the world has come to terms with the physical elimination of a person who caused much pain and suffering in the world. While public opinion polls suggest that people think the death of this man was necessary, there seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether or not it is appropriate for us to actually celebrate his death. I’m not completely sure of the answer myself, but then I remember Dad and those grasshoppers and I’m reminded that sometimes in life you have to do what you have to do.
What you DON’T have to do is enjoy it.