07 September 2010

The Cabin in the Woods

The ants at the cabin were enormous. They were, in memory, at least an inch long. They assembled their hills out of little granite pieces the size of grape-nuts, and the good hills stretched a few yards. There was a hill on the side of the road, just below where our drive met it, and it stretched all the way to the bend in the road. If you were about on foot, you knew you were almost home when you reached the bend with the ant hill.

Some of the ants had red sections, but most were black. The occasional ant found his way into the cabin and was swept out after lunch. Apart from that they left us alone. We did not leave them alone. We drove pine branches into their colonies and waited for the frenzy. We poured the remainders of our soft drinks down the hole and watched them splutter out. I always wondered how they could crawl around under all the tiny rocks, and where and how they quarried the uniform bricks of their houses.

Sometimes we found a dug-up hill, which, I was told, was the work of a bear looking for a treat. It didn't bother me, bears devastating ant-hills less than 100 feet from our cabin. What troubled me was a creature of such great size and little dexterity hunting ants. His appetite must be huge, yet how could he collect these insects with any accuracy? Isn't that why God made the anteater?

The fire seemed to cement the hills into a true structure. They had stood there, low and quiet, while the rest of the forest roasted, and afterward you couldn't collapse them by standing or jumping on them, much less driving a branch in. The ants must have slavered over each granule with fire-activated glue. I wonder whether the ants could live deep enough in the ground to survive a fire, or if new ants come to live in deserted colonies and clean out old ants' cremains.