Works in the Herald 1935

Whenever I venture to tell in detail of my experiences with jumper ants the recital is greeted by my so-called friends with symptoms of ill-timed levity that seem to me indicative of a distorted and primitively brutal sense of humor.

For me it is a serious story. For, since it is surely a serious thing to die, it is doubly serious to die twice. But to have died twice and been twice resuscitated, and still to walk about one's own domain in constant fear of a third and possibly yet more painful - not to say permanent - death is to me a matter of seriousness beyond all question.

Last week told of the German entomologist - a specialist in ants - who was virtually driven out of Australia by the combined attacks of Bulldog and Jumper ants. My own experience, I venture to think, was even more distressing.

Since I was a very small boy, I have taken a deep interest in the ways of ants. Many a parental wigging I received for lying on my stomach in a sandy, sun-scorched yard, watching for hours a community of sugar ants going to and fro upon their lawful occasions.

But the ants that I knew in those days, though short-tempered, were comparatively harmless, attacking with nippers only, and causing merely monetary pain. I had yet to become acquainted with those black-hearted, sneaking imps of iniquity who carry their lethal weapon aft, in the form of a keen and brutal stiletto, incredibly long, and unbelievably poisonous.

My first experience with my mortal enemy, the Jumper, happened five or six years ago. I was peacefully weeding the garden, wishing harm to no creature on earth, when one of those foul fiends of the underworld, leaping at me from a good six inches away, had, in a flash, not only grabbed me with his nippers, but had sunk his deadly stiletto deep into the knuckle of a forefinger.

Expecting no serious consequence, I brushed him aside, and went on weeding. But in less that 30 seconds the pain became intense, and, as I stood upright, a giddiness came upon me, with a most horrible sensation as if myriads of loathsome insects were crawling through every vein and artery in my system.

In a staggering run, I managed to reach the house, possessed by a ghastly premonition of swift and agonising death. In the bathroom I applied ammonia, while the symptoms of deathly sickness increased alarmingly.

Then I happened to catch sight of my face in the mirror. It was a face I failed to recognise the face of a corpse. My howl of mortal terror brought the household rushing to my aid; I was led to a bedroom door and left there while they hastened away for restoratives.

Between the bedroom door and the bed was a space of not more than six paces; but before I had covered half the distance, sagging at the knees I was enveloped in swift and terrifying darkness. For a few seconds I groped about in utter blackness, felt myself falling, and was unconscious before I hit the floor.

When I came to life again, cold compresses and that sovereign remedy, the blue bag, were being applied. But for half a day I was sick and very sorry, while the prodigious swelling of finger, hand and forearm remained for more than a week.

About a year later similar experience befell me, with the symptoms even more distressing. But even the physical suffering I endured on each of these occasions is hardly worse than my mental distress at the attitude of my alleged friends whenever I attempt to describe that awful face I saw in the mirror.

My face had gone a sickly, greenish yellow, my eyes, violently inflamed, protruded horribly, while my swollen lips were of a ghastly purplish hue. And all this plus the crawling in my veins, plus the deathly vertigo and nausea, plus the -

Well, I ask you, do you consider it a laughing matter?

Herald, 16 January 1935, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2005-06