Some of us went down one time to Swan Quarter at the coast to see a buddy who had taken a new job there.
We got in to his place near Pamlico Sound very late on a Friday night and went straight to bed. The next morning I got up early, at daybreak, and went outside for my first look-around in that corner of the state.
I opened the screen porch and confidently strode into the front yard. I began to tingle.
It was not from the thrill of being near the beach. Something wasn’t right. I looked down at my arms.
Swarms of mosquitoes were swirling and landing and biting. I tried to brush them off but they just hovered and dive-bombed back onto my exposed arms, neck and legs. I’d never seen skeeters like these.
I ran back inside. Yes, ran. After my buddy got up, I asked him about it. My host just shrugged.
I’ve been a bit leery of that part of the state since.
So it was with some sympathy that I read news of a controversy in Key West, Florida. They’re wanting to release biologically engineered mosquitoes there to control the skeeter population.
A British company is peddling a male mosquito in which two genes are altered. When it breeds, the larvae babies die. It’s better than spraying poison, promoters say.
Residents of Key West have greeted the news in much the same way that I greeted the Swan Quarter skeeters. Key West folks are running, away from the idea as fast as they can.
A protest petition signed by more than 155,000 oppose bringing in the genetically fixed mosquitoes.
“Some people don’t want to see GE (genetically engineered) anything,” University of Maryland entomologist Raymond St. Leger told “Yale Environment 360,” an online magazine.
The alarm from Key West sounded as we’ve been viewing the latest installment in the “Jurassic Park” movie series with its themes of re-creating dangerous dinosaurs. “Jurassic World,” the fourth movie, featured a hybrid dinosaur created by a deadly, genetically engineered mixture of genes.
Science running out of control and creating monsters and/or disasters is the stuff of modern science fiction, starting way back with Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” novel, first published in 1818.
“I don’t want my kids to be laboratory rats,” said Key West resident Mila de Mier, who started the petition. She said she’s worried about what might happen if a frankenmosquito bites her three kids and two dogs. Scientists say nothing unusual will happen.
But “Jurassic Park” and Murphy’s Law say you can never be too sure.
Especially in a place like Key West which — how can I say this gently — is a bit off center.
When I was there one time at the little waterfront with boats and shops and fellow tourists I began noticing … the chickens.
Chickens were strolling around everywhere, on the boardwalk, scratching and pecking wherever they could find some bare ground and acting as if they owned the place. That’s because they did.
Feral chickens are protected in Key West. You can’t harm them or you risk a steep fine. So the poultry without predators have the run of the place.
I was in a T-shirt shop/souvenir store on the waterfront and in through the open front door strode a chicken for a look-around. When I mentioned it to the lady behind the counter, she said chickens came in all the time.
You don’t need alarm clocks in Key West. On our first morning there, roosters were crowing all around.
I wonder how they keep the place so clean, as chickens are so messy. Despite all the chickens in Key West, I saw no droppings or other chicken mess.
I guess a place where folks can’t bear the thought of harming feral chickens can feel that they can put up with a few breeding mosquitoes.
I don’t have a problem with mosquitoes here in the hometown. But ever since I brought in some boxes years ago packed with some of my late mother-in-law’s things I’ve been plagued with camel crickets in my basement. They drive me batty.
If the Brits have some genetically altered camel crickets and want somewhere to try them out, I’m game. The frankencrickets could grow into dinosaurs. But I’m desperate and am willing to give the idea a try.
At least I’ve seen the movies and know to run like mad if things get out of hand.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.