Over the years, my nephew Samuel and I have bonded over ants. Whenever I go home to Georgia for a visit, we sit in the rocking chair and sing his favorite songs, and one of them is “The ants go marching one by one — Hurrah! Hurrah!” It’s a counting song that goes from one to 10, and the tune is the same as “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” While Samuel also enjoys “The Wheels On the Bus,” “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain,” and “Go Tell Aunt Rhody that her Old Grey Goose is Dead,” the ant song is a sure-fire hit. It seems the lad has impeccable taste in music. After all, he is one of the few people who cannot get enough of my singing. I suppose that technically makes him a hipster.
But it’s one thing to sing about hypothetical ants marching, and it’s quite another to have them invade your bathtub, windowsills and kitchen sink. It is that time of year again, when I find myself doing endless battle with the ants. I am facing — as readers of this column well know — a three-front war. The moles have dug such an elaborate tunnel network underneath my house that it may only take one trumpet blast for my walls to come tumbling down. Meanwhile, the birds have decided that no other mailbox on my street offers such fine amenities for answering the call of nature. Every day it’s the London Blitz all over again. And now the ants.
I have to pause here to admit that my dignity has taken a severe hit ever since I became a homeowner. Outside of my one-acre property, I am a respectable member of the community — a college professor, the author of a book that has sold well over 40 copies, and a folk singer with a very important fan base. But whenever I set foot on this small tract of land on Live Oak Drive, I suddenly turn into a laughingstock at the mercy of Mother Nature. The weeds grow rampant in my lawn, another branch of shrubbery passes away each week, the moles heckle me from their caves, the ants form a Conga line across my Formica countertops, and on top of everything else, I am reduced to squirting Scrubbing Bubbles toilet cleaner on my mailbox twice per week. Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed in the morning.
I realize that some people may have stopped reading at “Formica countertops.” Do not judge me. I am positive that Formica will come back in style someday, and then all of those kitchenistas who look down on my counters will feel awfully silly for having put $4,000 worth of polished stone under their cabinets. You would think that Isaiah 57:6 would discourage such vanity. But alas, somehow I doubt I will be asked to join the River Oaks Tour of Kitchens.
And while we’re on the subject of theology, I know that I should follow the admonition of Proverbs 6:6 and respect the hard-working ant. But my prejudices run deep. I come from a strong family of anti-ant people. I can remember a few times when my mother has done battle with these troublesome insects. Her first step is usually to petition her member of Congress to issue a declaration of war. But even without it, she launches a full-scale guerrilla assault. She first empties every drawer and cabinet. Then she scrubs the room ceiling to floor and back again with her own mixture of 409, Clorox, Lysol and Tabasco sauce. Next she moves the family into a motel for a few days while she douses the premises with Raid. Then rinse and repeat.
But alas, I am not as strong as my mother. As Hamlet says, “I am pigeon-livered and lack gall.” I hover over the sink with a Kleenex, squashing one little guy at a time and wiping him up. One of these days, the gloves will come off. The gauntlet will be thrown down. A man can only be pushed around so long by burrowing moles, poop-happy mockingbirds, and insects dancing the rumba. And when that day comes, the ants will indeed be marching one by one . . . straight to glory. Hurrah! Hurrah!