Thurs., May 17, 42 A.D.

My Magical Encounter With Vanessa

So it was just about an hour before sunset and I was taking the trash out when I decided to mosey around the yard to see what might and might not be blooming these days (yellow irises - yes; pink peonies - not quite yet) when I happened to look up at the west side of our white vinyl-clad house and I saw them.

Ten butterflies resting on and around my office closet's window, apparently enjoying the evening sun after a day of rain.

As I stood and watched in awe, one wafted by me, then another.  Soon it seemed that everywhere I looked, there was another - and then another.  Several were sucking off the white blossoms of the huge (yet nameless) bush behind me.  Others fluttered along the eaves or rested on the (already spent) lilac bush to the south of my closet window.  Still others could be found sunning themselves on the wooden fence along the east side of our driveway.

I'd never seen more than three or four butterflies at a time before, and then only briefly.  Suddenly I found myself in the midst of what must have been a hundred, all as languid and friendly as if they'd come from the pens and brushes of Disney animators instead of from - from where?

I couldn't recall ever seeing this type before.  

I'd certainly never had an experience here like this despite this being our fifth May at this address.

It was a wonderfully weird and unexpected experience - one which I quickly alerted Amy to so that she might enjoy it as well. 

If in the process of enjoying it she managed to convince me I wasn't merely seeing things, so much the better....

As with most special things like this, it ended all too soon.  The sun slipped ever lower, the shadows quickly increased, and the butterflies slowly dispersed to whatever holes, shrubs, or bars they pass their evenings in.  

Amy and I headed to our books of insect mugshots and took a stab at identifying our unexpected visitors.  Within a matter of moments, we'd independently ID'd 'em:

Vanessa Atalantas - otherwise known as Red Admirals.  

They're allegedly found throughout all of North America (yet this was the first time our paths seem to have crossed in 40 years).  The larvae allegedly feed on nettles and hops (though I don't believe I've seen a single nettle or hop in my life).  There are five species of Vanessa (but our books couldn't bother to tell us how to tell them apart).  

"Wild species, not affecting humans."

That was a lie.  

Rarely had an insect affected me more.

We put our books away.  Having fed the rational, logical left side of our brains (which tends to whine and bawl quite terribly until loaded up with the labels and classifications it craves), we just sat and let our intuitive, holistic right hemispheres run barefoot through the memory of the sweet moment.....

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(©Now by DJB using his hollow tongue 
and a borrowed pair of fuzzy antennas)



PS - I know, I know.  I should leave well enough alone and not mess up an unexpectedly pleasant entry with any of my usual blathery nonsense.  Sorry - I can't resist.  I tried - I really did! - but new information about that runaway train we had here the other day simply REFUSES to stay parked safely in my head.

Figures, eh?

You readers who want to luxuriate in my sweet butterfly story are dismissed.  I'll see the rest of you in the next paragraph.

Ok, come in closer now.   Here's the scoop.

It seems the engineer of that train (a 35-year veteran, no less) DID confuse the break and the throttle levers.  They're close together and VERY similar.  Other engineers say they're not surprised that he did so.  

What's weird, though, is that they say he should have known better than to do what he did because you have to push the break lever one way to engage it and the throttle the opposite way to get it where it was found.  In other words, even if he confused the levers, he shouldn't have done what he did.

AND, they say, pushing the throttle to the 8th (highest) position would have resulted in the engine responding immediately.  He should have heard and felt it, realized what he was doing was wrong, and instantly corrected it - not left the engine as if he'd actually put it safely in park.

Finally realizing his mistake when he saw the train slipping away, he chased after it, latched onto the back, and was dragged 80 feet before letting go.

Ok, now HERE'S where the story gets really good.

There's apparently a fuel shut-off button on the outside of these engines.  And when this particular engine entered Hardin County (once home of the largest wire fence factory in the country), an Ohio Highway Patrol officer let loose with a volley of shotgun fire in hopes of hitting this button.

He fired an undetermined number of times.

And the Ohio Highway Patrol cannot say whether any of the shots hit the train.

Doesn't THAT make me proud to be an Ohioan!  Doesn't THAT make it easy for me to go to sleep tonight!

I mean, we have trained officers of the law out there firing shotguns at trains - and possibly missing!

"We did it at the direction of the train's owner, CSX," the Ohio Highway Patrol says.  Which makes me wonder if CSX had told them to park all their cruisers on the tracks in front of the train, would they have done that, too?

CSX, for its part, denies making any such request, says it can't find any employee who'll admit to making such a request, asserts it can't imagine any employee ever making such a request, and promises that if any employee ever requests the Ohio Highway Patrol to open fire on any of its trains with shotguns again - even as a gag -  the company picnic the following June WILL be B.Y.O.B.  

And to think that I used to believe that "Dilbert" was the funniest part of my newspaper!