Have you ever had a pet? Okay then, have you ever had a pet wasp or yellow jacket?
Alas there was such a thing in my childhood. I wasn't the only one to have one of these exotic pets. It was quite the thing in my little school. This was all brought back to me as I sit watching the yellow jackets swarm so thick around my doors and windows that I hesitate to even go outside. Today I am a little bit leary of them but there was once a time......
In the early 1950's in the fall of the year, the yellow jacket wasps were plentiful as they are today. Back then, no building was tight much less wasp proof. They were always in our classrooms, the entry way and on the bus. Early in the cool of the morning, being very brace, one could capture a wasp in their suttle stage and remove their STINGER. This was done by holding him down with someones pocket knife and using tweezers to pull that nasty poisonious stinger out. Look back a few words here.....Yes, I did say pocket knife. That was a tool of the trade in those days and no one thought a thing about a child having one in school. That is a different story and I shall have to write a post about it someday.
NOW.....back to the wasps. Having had his weapon removed, he was quite harmless. Now the wasp didn't know that yet so he was still quite fiesty as we held onto them and tied a piece of sewing thread aroung their middle. How we ever did this, I don't remember but we did. Often the thread was still attached to the spool and the pet had quite a long leash. Sometimes tape was used to secure the thread so it would not unwind further, as the wasp usually just ventured to the bright windows of the classroom.
Often, races were held. We all stood in a straight line and released our wasps to see whose would fly the furtherest before coming to a rest. This was measured by the thread that was released. Some kids would use a small stick and put through the spool and let the wasp fly quite a ways. To the wasps dismay, he would be reeled back in.
These pets were kept in the classroom and I am not sure why the teacher put up with them but to my recollection, it was she that taught us all about them. I never told my grandchildren this story, I am not sure I shared it with my children when they were of the age to want to try this stunt. Today, I don't think I am brave enough to hold one down and remove the stinger unless it is dead of course. At the end of the school day in our little rural school, the pets were disposed of. Sad but true they were euthenized. We had no heart for them at the end of the last recess. But I can tell you this, we did not need a Wii or a DS, we all had a pet wasp and guess what... it was free.